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Sky Ferreira Revels in Her Own Chaos and Exhaustion on Debut Album ‘Night Time, My Time’

SPIN Rating: 7 of 10
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Label: Capitol

Debut pop albums are rarely as self-reflexive as Night Time, My Time, the first full-length from 21-year-old singer/model Sky Ferreira. But rarely has the gestation of a debut pop album necessitated such reflection. The Los Angeles native first signed a recording contract at age 15 and has, by her estimation, recorded 400 songs since then, with only about 25 getting an official release, including the 12 here.

That Ferreira was sucked into the music industry as a teenager and has only just emerged from the lurch isn’t exactly notable; nor is her sound’s trajectory from Robyn-style European dance pop to the noisy but dreamy rock (with help from co-writers Ariel Reichstad and Justin Raisen) that forms Night Time‘s foundation. What is unique is that Ferreira never disappeared from view in the three years since her initial single, “17,” instead morphing into a fashion-scene player who tantalized the public with a series of album-cycle reboots as the industry tossed her around. It’s no surprise that, in the liner notes, she thanks two separate people for “always having my best interest.”

So when she says in interviews that she’s had to fight for the sound and soul of this record, you certainly believe her, and it adds a distinct weight to the fuzz and feedback she sings and shouts through on nearly every track. Having her teen years drained away by airplane flights, photo shoots, and useless recording sessions brings a darkness to the album’s centerpieces — the back-to-back “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)” and “I Blame Myself,” which repeat, respectively, the lines “Nobody asked me if I was okay” and “I blame myself for my reputation.” Even the giddiness of “Boys” (“You put my faith back in boys”) and “24 Hours” (“I wish these 24 hours would never end”) have an electric pulse thanks to the mental and physical exhaustion driving them. The specter of Ferreira’s origin story looms large.

But a plot this twisted can’t end so simply: If Ferreira wants to be a cautionary tale, she certainly doesn’t sound like it. It’s unavoidable that “Nobody Asked Me” is sung as a gleeful, celebratory anthem, delivered with steely confidence. “I Blame Myself” is the record’s poppiest song, bouncing along on new-wave synths. The soft blanket of Jesus and Mary Chain-style noise draped throughout implies not suffocation, but comfort. Ferreira is finally fully reveling in the swirling cacophony that is her sound and her life.

She had a way out, too. Last year’s “Everything Is Embarrassing” (not included here) was the single that revitalized her career, a slinky breakthrough that glistened like a prom-night gem. There is a similar track on Night Time: It’s called “Love in Stereo,” and it’s lithe and funky, aiming straight for a nonexistent new John Hughes soundtrack. She cuts it off abruptly, with no warning, after three minutes and 17 seconds.