I don’t routinely get to / have to listen to what most people would refer to as pop music. I’m not talking indie twee, hyper-glossy bubblegum, or “look at me I’m making pop music, how alt am I” shit: I’m talking about the kind of stuff that gets played on Z100 and makes songwriters actual living wages. The kind of stuff that makes Belle and Sebastian look like some sort of subversive art movement; stuff that would categorically deny a band like Wolf Eyes the right to even call what they do music. Now hey, I’m not going to pretend that in my storied career as a music journalist I’ve been particularly friendly to that which we politely refer to as “accessible” – for better or worse, I’ve been something of a pop music naysayer. Night Time, My Time, the debut album from wunderkind-cum-PR nightmare Sky Ferreira, is a collection of exactly the kind of pop songs I love to hate; furthermore, I don’t think I could do a very good job explaining what one might find so compelling about this album. But but but:
I do find something very compelling about this album.
First of all, (or like, ninth of all) what Night Time, My Time looks like to me is an arm explicitly reaching out to Bushwick sub-hipsterdom. An appeal to the kind of people who can get you into 285 Kent for free (or at least know someone who can), or who stay up all night with their roommates talking about whether or not Total Slacker have sold out. I can’t figure out why it looks this way to me, and this makes Night Time, My Time an even more furiously invigorating listen than I should probably think it is.
There’s also something downright off-putting about Night Time, My Time. It meets every single wrong expectation I might have of Z100 if I drunkenly insisted whoever was driving me home turn the radio on so we could hear some of that sweet pop garbage. It’s an indie fanatic’s idea, not of what “mainstream” pop music should sound like, but what it actually does. Night Time, My Time holds your hand as it takes you, lover of early Cat Power, step by step into an unfamiliar darkness. In a sense, this is an album that treats goofy, hyper-produced pop music as if it’s the most subversive thing in the world; but at no point does it claim to be anything other than goofy hyper-produced pop music.
To make the douchiest comparison in the history of online music journalism, Night Time, My Time reminds me of the Darren Aranofsky movie Black Swan. Black Swan was, by some accounts, Aranofsky’s version of a B-movie. But even though it meets all the tropes of a shitty thriller (cheap shocks, gratuitous sex, overwrought melodrama) it can’t help but recognize a cerebral artistry; maybe not its own, but at least the existence of one. This lets Black Swan – and Night Time, My Time – exist in the same world as “real” art.
So what exactly is on an album like Night Time, My Time? Well this certainly isn’t an album with any sort of temporal or chronological coherence. You know how on Sung Tongs “College” is made so much better by the fact that it slips right into “We Tigers”? Of course you do. The same is not true of Night Time opener “Boys” and “Ain’t Your Right” – you could sandwich a pizza dinner listening to Maurice Ravel between these two songs and they probably wouldn’t hit you any differently. They’re just good in like…a regular way. But Night Time, My Time really kicks off with “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)”, a song that sounds like The Strokes track “The End Has No End” thrust through about twenty filter banks, while still retaining an endearing urban atmosphere.
The stadium-sized poignancy of “24 Hours” makes me think of San Diego beaches I’ll never catch the perfect wave on; “You’re Not the One”’s rapid guitar asecnsions into Avalon-era Roxy Music synth-flutations (new word) appeal to the 80s teen rom-com soundtrack designer I wish I could have been. “I Blame Myself”, on the other hand, sparkles with too much artificial photo flash to separate itself from the Windows Media Player preload it seems to have been based around. “Kristine”, with its wah-pedal synths and riccochetting drums, sounds like some sort of battle march through an upper west side medicine cabinet. “I Will” earned itself a few replays in the hopes of catching a faint harmony I’m still not sure I actually heard. The guitars on “I Will”, and any semblance of a live instrument on the rest of Night Time make no attempt at sounding authentically crusty or “rocked upon,” which is a relief.
The production on Night Time is standard, even a little shy; hardly an audiophile’s wet dream, but Night Time is mixed refreshingly low and light on bass. The focus here is (and should be) on the way Ferreira’s manipulates her voice through a series of filters and pop landscapes.
Perhaps what’s so compelling about Night Time, My Time is the lack of a statement it seems to be making, aural or otherwise. It’s just pure pop, but for once it’s a pop album that doesn’t insist you recognize it as such. It’s not pointing to itself, shouting “look at what pop music I made!”, nor is it claiming to be something more progressive than it actually is. Ultimately, the slick “Love in Stereo” cruises you blithe and serene into the industrial park that is “Night Time, My Time” where you will lie down and go to sleep. That’s all there is to it, that’s a wrap; no need to hang around talking or prodding or building art-pop mythologies, just go home and go about your day. Thanks everyone, and goodnight!