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A decade has passed since Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (Orlando Higginbottom) released his debut LP Trouble. In that time it’s safe to say that, both personally and globally, life has been a lot. Orlando channeled his resulting emotions into his long-awaited second album When the Lights Go. This wonderfully heartfelt 17- track long-player marks a telling departure in sound, defined, of course, by the events of the last few years. In the 10 years since his first album, Orlando toured the globe, settled in LA for seven years, worked behind-the-scenes producing for a range of top-tier acts and earned himself a Grammy nomination in 2020 for his collaboration with Bonobo – ‘Heartbreak’. But he also experienced the lows that life can often cruelly thrust upon us. When the Lights Go is the product of those difficult times. Encompassing songwriting, ballads and a pop-centred aesthetic, it’s full of depth, feeling, storytelling and woe – presented in a compelling manner, as only he can. Sonically, this shift in sound demonstrates his maturity, both artistically and personally. The self-released album represents an end point, signifying closure while ushering in his return, with a renewed perspective after a period of growth…
Largely recorded during his time living in Los Angeles, When the Lights Go is a substantial body of work, containing 17 tracks – a direct acknowledgement of the duration between albums, “I feel grateful to know that there are people who are interested in more music from me. So I want to give them something significant in length”, he says. The finishing touches were added after Orlando’s departure from LA, with time spent in mainland Europe and back home in the UK, where it was mixed, ending up in Lisbon, where he produced the final two songs. This very intimate odyssey encompasses themes relating to love and relationships, as well as broader topics such as mental health, the patriarchal system and climate change. Events of the last decade are very evident in Orlando’s songwriting, ever present in his beautifully articulated expression throughout the LP.
When the Lights Go also marks a shift into the pop domain, Orlando’s vocals taking centre stage with arrangements that complement the sadness in the songwriting. From the mournful lead single ‘Blood in The Snow’, with its sombre tones, an emphatic sonnet that reminds us all of the clear and present posed by climate change, through to ‘Sleeper’ which features heartrending piano keys and lyrics that are delivered, naked and raw, with conviction. Closer ‘Thugs’ is an unequivocal swipe at the patriarchy, political elite and oligarchy, whose thuggish brutality has brought the world to its current state: “Fucked on arrival, touch for survival,” he sings in the opening lines. While his pain is laid bare on the opening cut ‘Crosswalk’; “I’ve never been hurt the way you hurt me, I’ve never been loved the way you loved me” we hear him sing in the chorus.
The long-awaited album is imbued with feeling, a universal language that transcends wordplay and metaphor. You’re sure to identify with the emotional content codified in the compositions, regardless of the lyrical content; what he describes as, “a sort of apocalyptic panic meets depression with some beats”. With all that’s happened over the last few years, that feeling will undoubtedly resonate with a broad cross section of listeners. A gift to those who’ve been waiting patiently for a new body of work, and a gift to himself. It’s honest, vulnerable and indicative of a level of maturity not heard from him before.
Orlando has chosen to use the myriad life’s twists and turns as the catalyst for a path of self-growth, instigating shifts in his life that will, ultimately, reverberate out into the world and transmit ubiquitous positive energy. When the Lights Go is where the troubles of the past come to an end. Music, Orlando’s lifelong source of solace, has provided a channel for growth and restoration. Whatever happens next, he faces it with the will to remain upbeat, conscious and with the same level of boundless creative energy that launched him into the limelight the first time around…