I Blame Myself – Sky Ferreira
Night Time, My Time
45:52 min • Capitol • October 29, 2013
John Preston reviews
Although her first single appeared in 2010, Sky Ferreira has never released album before. In fact, in the UK she still hasn’t, as her debut Night Time, My Time doesn’t yet have a release date. This pretty much sums up the plight of being an interested Sky listener. Although there appears to have been a lot of music recorded over a three year period, talk of albums near completion and exciting collaborations, very little has ever seen the light of day. It would appear that is mainly due to Ferreira herself not being happy to release material that record companies and interested parties want her to and therefore becoming an artist that certain sections of the music industry would rather not have to deal with. Either she is a highly volatile personality whose ego stands in the way of her producing consistently good material (hi Azealia!) or she is an artist in the more literal sense of the word who wants to only share material that she stands by. It’s satisfying then to hear, based on this new evidence, that it’s almost certainly the latter.
Night Time, My Time is a surprisingly taut guitar, drums and synths album, in that order, with Ferreira herself sounding bright and pouting through the majority of it. The sexuality that informs the NSFW album sleeve portrait translates into the multi harmonies that make up the wall of sound, mid-sixties girl group album opener ‘Boys’. The predominant electro pop sound that runs through the majority of her previous releases does not dominate here and this collection sounds unlike anything else released by a female singer this year who is within the genre of ‘pop artist’. Whilst not a retro album, the spirits of early Blondie, Joan Jett, Siouxsie Sioux and even Kim Wilde are alive and well; and it’s these kind of stand-alone punk icons that Ferreira obviously feels a kinship with.
Ariel Rechtshaid (Charlie XCX, Vampire Weekend and Glasser), who produces the entire album, excels at creating wonderfully full sounding soundscapes which bulge with intricate details and neat sonic flourishes (listen to Haim’s thrilling ‘My Song 5’ for an example). On songs like the snarling ‘Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)’, and the ‘Kids In America’ mugging ‘Ain’t Your Right’, Ferreira and Rechtshaid give Night Time, My Time a genuine indie rock-pop authenticity and power as a cohesive body of work and not just an exercise in producer placement. Regardless whether acoustic specialist Jon Brian or pop god Greg Kurstin had taken the production reigns here, as it were previously assumed they may (both have worked successfully with Ferreira before), none of this would work if the songs weren’t good enough and Ferreira has always had an excess of brilliant tunes.
Fans who may possibly mourn the overall departure of more traditional pop songs like the towering, Kylie-like ‘One’ from 2010 can still find solace here with three nuggets of airy and gleaming brilliance; ‘24 Hours’, ‘Love in Stereo’ and, in particular, the defiant ‘I Blame Yourself’. The latter finds Ferreira accusing her detractors,
How could you know what it feels like to fight the hounds of hell?
How could you know what it feels like to be outside yourself?
You think you know me so well?
I just want you to realise I blame myself for my reputation.
And that still doesn’t take into account ‘Kristine’. This is a real weirdo of a track, short with deliberately hard to decipher lyrics that seem to reference shopping with said Kristine and the young millionaires. It has an ever ascending melody key-line and the admission “even though I’m not bright, I can live in the bright town”. Its craziness is unexpected and brilliantly realised.
Ferreira has said that the album’s title comes from a line said by the tragic character Laura Palmer in David Lynch’s feature length film Fire Walk with Me, more commonly known as Twin Peaks, or at least a less successful prelude to the hugely popular TV show of that name. There is an incredibly affecting scene in the film where Laura Palmer speaks about falling in space and how eventually you would burst into flames and the angels wouldn’t save you as they are all gone. A haunting insight into the lead character’s eventual death, Ferreira incorporates this dialogue into the title track’s lyrics, the bad girl punished by death. It’s a sombre close to an otherwise uplifting and exhilarating album and musically it’s lifted straight from Tricky’s 1995 trip hop classic of ‘Maxinquay’. It’s sticky and drunken with Ferreira coolly accepting her potential fate. This track alone confirms the risks she clearly wanted to take with her first album, it’s impossible to imagine any one of pop’s golden girls making anything as desolate sounding as this; it’s how you may expect Lady Gaga to sound if you had only seen her.
‘Heavy Metal Heart’ may go precisely nowhere, and ‘Omanko’ takes a novelty turn in the wrong direction, but this still doesn’t prevent Sky Ferreira’s album from being a massive achievement. Her current reputation as the hipster bloggers poster girl is as troubling as it is questionable – how much of that is due to the music as opposed to the image of a seemingly nihilistic, with occasional low self-esteem issues, ex-model? This is a pop artist though and image is arguably as important as sound. What Fererrai has done with Night Time, My Time has made a record where it isn’t necessary to rely on visual props to fully relate to and enjoy the music. In that way it seems quite old fashioned and there is little doubt whilst listening to it that she loves these songs as well as the process of making them come to life. If you were impressed but unmoved by some of the bigger, shinier releases from the last 4 months of 2013 then this album may relieve some of your pessimism, she may have taken an age to do it but Sky Ferriera has gone and made one of the best albums of the year.