Derek Vincent Smith (born November 25, 1981), known by his stage name Pretty Lights, is an American electronic music producer. Pretty Lights was originally a music project consisting of him and Michal Menert, who left after the release of their first album. Rick Rubin once described Pretty Lights as “the face and voice of the new American electronic music scene”. Smith’s music relies heavily on digital sampling and crosses many genres, forming a combination of “glitchy hip-hop beats, buzzing synth lines, and vintage funk and soul samples”. Pretty Lights’ sound is generated by manipulating samples and organic beats using the Novation X-Station, monome, and the Akai MPD32. Smith uses these digital controllers to program the music production software Ableton Live 8. When performing live, Smith uses two Macbook Pros running Ableton Live 8 and two Akai MPD32s. Smith usually considers his music as “Electro Hip-Hop Soul,” a mix between elements of electronic-based music, and beats from hip-hop and soul music. Here are all of Pretty Lights’ albums ranked.
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6. Glowing In The Darkest Night, 2010
“I’m giving all these EPs the same rating and letting this review stand in for all of them. Mostly because Pretty Lights says they’re a trilogy, they all sound similar enough, and they’re all really good. Funky and chill dubstep bangers. If that makes any sense. Probably not, but he covers a lot of ground. Lots of soul and rap samples, jazzy piano, wonky bass lines, etc, etc. Pretty great stuff.”
5. Passing By Behind Your Eyes, 2009
“What it would sound like if Blue Sky Black Death got some funk into their life. Unfortunately it’s long, long, long, long, long. Too long. The average track length is about five and a half minutes, which wouldn’t be too bad if there weren’t so many songs. Unlike BSBD, most tracks don’t progress enough to warrant the length. They do go into very interesting territories at times and for the first few minutes of the songs entertain, at the least.”
4. Making Up A Changing Mind, 2010
“Another fantastic release by Pretty lights… I can see it in your face is probably one of the best dance room bangers of the year! Modern electronic/dubstep done right!”
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3. Filling Up The City Skies, 2008
“This is an album where I have to recommend listening to each disc separately. Both albums are very different pieces — the first a more chill, downtempo set of tracks while the second is more upbeat, more punchy, more exciting.”
2. Taking Up Your Precious Time, 2006
“This is a pretty good debut. It’s not up to future pretty lights standards, but it does show where he is going. Overall it’s a bit too trad downtempo, but he does it well. The whole album is a real smooth listen, even if all the tracks don’t stand out. I wouldn’t start here, but I would say give it listen once you hear his later masterpieces. It’s classy downtempo instrumental hip hop, and for my money beats dj shadow and j dilla at it.”
1. A Color Map Of The Sun, 2013
“A Color Map of the Sun lacks variety and is, therefore, mercilessly repetitive with the astonishing aggravation of lasting nearly an hour and a half. This fact is not trivial and ends up subtracting points. Still, I think it’s worth giving it a try even if it’s for the sake of discovering new sounds.”