"@skyferreira is the fuckinnnn TRUTH" - Miley Ray Cyrus, Feb 23, 2014
While the idea of Miley Cyrus 2014 Edition dealing in absolute truth is amusing, such a ringing endorsement for her most recent touring partner makes sense. Sky Ferreira, though not a former child star, has been intellectual property of the music industry since she was 15. Now 21, her long-awaited debut is finally here, emerging after years of resisting label moulding and flirting with different styles. Like Cyrus, she continues to rail against the belief that a room full of out-of-touch suits are controlling her every move.
To draw another parallel, there has been controversy. A high profile drug arrest alongside boyfriend and DIIV frontman Zachary Cole Smith last September led to a mugshot that makes for only slightly less uncomfortable viewing than the Gaspar Noé-shot album cover above. It's an interesting contrast. Clothed but clearly shaken in one, naked but commanding in the other. Ferreira considers the Noé image 'strong and beautiful' and has noted that she fought for its inclusion. Despite the apparent vulnerability on display, she's very much in control.
Night Time, My Time boasts production so slick it's practically weaponised and an aggressively confident performance from its leading light. It's both in and out of control, at least emotionally. Considering the record's DNA has existed in one form or another since Ferreira was first entering adolescence, it's both no surprise and strangely perfect that opening track 'Boys' concerns itself with superficiality and lust-at-first-sight sentiment. Initially, the entire male gender - dismissively referred to by the song's title - are "a dime a dozen" until one catches Ferreira's eye and she "knew it was love". Throw in a playground refrain - "Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye" - and a Sleigh Bells-style sledgehammer arrangement and you have one of the most arresting pop openers in years. The shallowness is playful, not arrogant. No easy trick.
Minutes pass, emotions see-saw. 'Ain't Your Right' is a great deal more grown-up, catching Ferreira in forgiving mood. Too forgiving, really, as she offers up excuses for another who clearly doesn't deserve them. '24 Hours' is as slight as 'Boys', all about clinging onto that one extended idyllic moment, the dread of what follows buried in fairytale desire. There's an important common denominator across these three songs and on the vast majority of Night Time, My Time; it all works. The hooks are razor-sharp. The builds are perfectly measured. The choruses are knockouts. The vocals are precisely what they need to be. Even seemingly straightforward affairs like 'Heavy Metal Heart' and 'Omanko', with their mildly industrial leanings, have a considerable amount of punch about them.
Still, the inner workings remain intriguing. Perhaps the strongest example of Ferreira's fondness for tonal shifts comes with the back-to-back deployment of 'Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)' and 'I Blame Myself'. Such titles cannot help but scream angst, but Ferreira's unflinching honesty makes for compelling listening. On one hand, she's pissed off at having to fight - and lose - battles alone. On the other, she's resigned to it. If 'Nobody Asked…' is skilled venting, the Paisley Park-infused 'I Blame Myself' is a triumph of both self-reflection and killer songwriting. At its busy heart, Ferreira's mea culpa pulsates, those who judge her (for there are many) forgiven as she takes full accountability "for my reputation".
What reputation, though? Sure, if you Google her name the word 'drugs' helpfully pops up as the first auto-complete option, but that incident occurred following this album's completion. It also shouldn't matter. Maybe it's an acknowledgement to those who thought she'd never put it all together, that little lay beyond those raccoon-like eyes. Though Night Time, My Time tapers off slightly before an odd, limp conclusion, it stands as vindication for the artist behind it. If a song like 'Everything Is Embarrassing' made people sit up and take notice, the striding power-pop of 'You're Not The One' should floor them. For the most part, Ferreira's debut keeps things simple, focusing hard on immediate connections.
You get the sense that all Sky Ferreira ever really wanted was for people to listen. Here, she gives them a reason. That's truth worth discovering.
7Dave Hanratty's Score