Sky Ferreira’s been in the big leagues from a young age. “I’ve literally been doing this half my life, since I was a preteen,” she recently told Pitchfork. She’s taken a lot of knocks over that period, and now at 21, she’s released her first full-length album, Night Time, My Time. It’s divided between driving, stadium-sized rock and diffuse, murkier tracks, a series of starts and stops, explosions of feeling followed by temporary calm.
Ferriera has put out several singles in the last few years. 2010 singles “One” and “17” showed her trying her hand at tinny synth-pop, all thin synthesizer lines and head-long rushing hooks. 2012’s “Red Lips” went for downtown New York post-punk during the verses, cool streams of bass, and laid on thick rock during the chorus. These songs are well-executed, but unremarkable. But 2012 also brought “Everything Is Embarrassing”, a sleek piece of ’80s funk-pop that earned a lot of attention. “I’ve probably actually made ten albums at this point in order to get this one album,” said Ferreira. It took her a while to figure out her strengths and navigate a system, just like it does with any artist. Except Ferreira was in the public eye (as both a musician and a model) during that time.
She still draws musical inspiration from the 80s, but she’s not interested in slick or bubbly anymore. Ferreira’s accompaniment here is usually jagged a guitar, like in “You’re Not The One”, with its bludgeoning riff and crude percussion. Her power often stems from rejection of the opposite sex. “Guess you’re not the one,” she sings, but the knotty churning behind her contradict this language. Nothing here involved guessing, it was all a product of pain and planning. “Boys” also employs ringing blasts of guitar, played on buzz-saw setting, as Ferreira assures herself that boys come a “dime a dozen.” The big chord changes in “Ain’t Your Right” are full of pleasing finality, and a double time beat keeps bearing down on the singer. “It ain’t your right,” Ferreira tells a lover, but here she’s willing to relent, and possibly to negotiate. “If you consider sleeping over / I’ll consider you.”
Almost as often as she’s pushing towards climax and escape with big guitars as companions, she’s tossing those tools aside in favor of a cloak of noise. This allows for more aimless exploration. “Omanko” starts with a guitar blast in the face that might have graced an old Sonic Youth track. “Kristine” also glorifies fuzz, progressing steadily higher, but never reaching any sort of resolution, or bothering to double back. The vocals echo here and Ferreira seems lost in her own train of thought. The title track contorts around a strange jarring beat, distorted as if heard through speakers that have seen better years. The lyrics are often low and obscured, like she wants to hide her intentions. But some phrases peak through clearly. “I wouldn’t feel anything when we burst into dust forever,” intones Ferreira. Whatever comes, she sounds ready.
Maybe the song “Love In Stereo” hints at the unifying force working behind Ferreira’s two disparate halves. “I’ll Survive,” she sings, over slinky guitar and swathes of synthesizer. A sturdy disco beat develops. The hook is cooed rather than sung: “It’s always just stay, just stay, never just go, never just go.” It’s a phrase about love. But the existence of this album, coming out half a lifetime after she started trying to make music, shows that the phrase is also an expression of her career philosophy. Survive and stay, never go. In the brutal world of pop, those traits will carry her far.