The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Sky Ferreira
Night Time, My Time Amy Pettifer , April 1st, 2014 10:13

My opinion of Sky Ferreira's long awaited debut album has gone from pre-disposed hatred to ambivalence; from wanting to pick it apart to being unable to remove its hooks from my brain; from balking at its oddly passive bio-rhythms to recognising it as darkly clever. From thinking of her existence as fatally mired in the contradictions of 21st century celebrity to applauding her defiance against the system that contains her.

It's hard out there for a bitch, and that's probably never more evident than when attempting to talk about young, female, broadly popular artists who don't fall neatly into categories that we're comfortable with. 21-year-old Ferreira is neither an alternative nor a straight up pop star – she's someone insane enough to throw herself at the mercy of public scrutiny, slap bang in the middle of the period of life when most people would be quietly and sweatily working out who the heck they are. A causal dig through YouTube will offer up her messy, retrograde hatching from a quiet spoken teen swan with impossible hair, listing her favourite designers for Vogue.com - to a scrawny Courtney Love-esque duckling, croaking the tale of a drug arrest from behind cat-eye shades – giving a flying fuck about nothing.

Having a non-consistent brand is still pretty much out of the question for artists like Ferreira, despite the fact of being both shunned by alternative "serious" music radio and embraced by the most outré of editorial spreads - so it's not exactly surprising that she seems to be peddling a kind of dead eyed defiance. A naked boredom. A passionate disillusion.

Night Time, My Time is the sound of someone putting up a wall around themselves and working hard to delineate some space. In this case a nocturnal space that embraces post-millennial life as the cultural black hole that it is. Her night time is filled as much with a deep tumble down the rabbit-warren of rampant internet research as it is with personal reflection and erotic encounter. Ferreira has swiftly come to terms with the fact that being a pop artist now is less about being a vessel for someone else's ideas and rather a case of being a walking time capsule – everything that has gone before is sewn into your very being and is contingent with your growing up. Either way, you can't win.

However, it's this motley aesthetic that makes her record sound contemporary. Almost every chord and cadence pulls at your sonic muscle-memory, but her deep, smoky vocal flattens the entire experience out into an unmistakable present of stalled history and unravelling time.  '24 Hours' - a standout track notable for its likeness to exit music from a John Hughes film – is the perfect apocalyptic love song; its rousing chorus, heart-sore narrative and melodic chimes filtered through the mind of someone who's clearly heard that ultra-slowed down version of 'Wuthering Heights' or perhaps recognises the manic, choral hedonism of Katy Perry's 'Last Friday Night' for the dark yawn that it actually is. Hers is an impressively turgid romance that ends as the world implodes – just like the video for the insatiable kayo 'You're Not The One' - where no amount of infectious song-writing and impassioned performance will save anyone from shedding blood.

Elsewhere things are grungy, industrial, spaced out, inane – drums shuddering against the clear bark of her voice as it both declaims the world around her and lauds the individual who "put her faith back in boys". At times things get messy and sound a lot like Ferreira and her various producers totally forgot what was going on ('Omanko' & 'Kristine') but these moments do a great job of hammering home the fact that the record clearly wasn't signed off by someone with a seasoned commercial agenda.

Perhaps the most telling thing about the track-listing is that it closes with the Dev Hynes collaboration 'Everything Is Embarrassing' – left languishing at the end of the record like a memory of something done and dusted. The song – as perfect as it is – detracts from any sense of Ferreira's individuality galvanised in the previous eleven tracks – it sounds like Hynes more than it sounds like her, so familiar has the glistening, melancholy of his production become. That's not to say that the rest of the album is free from the lick of other collaborators; you could rightly say that it's drowning in production from start to finish and that Ferreira's husky presence is just another link in the chain. But, for the most part, it's the balance of opposing forces that keep things interesting – vocal and production constantly at odds with one another, failing to be perfect, smooth, good even. That balance is delicate enough that such a slick run in with Hynes, arguably one of the best producer/writers around, could cause the casual listener to have her pegged as a vessel, a medium, rather than a mistress of her own destiny.

As tough and tawdry as that notion is to face, Night Time, My Time is hopefully the sound of Ferreira climbing inside the commercial machine and wryly dismantling it from within. If the six years it's taken her to release the record are likely to have taught her anything, it's that you have to understand the workings of that machine in order to pull it apart.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.