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Sky Ferreira Finds Her Sound

John Darr | Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It’s the question Capitol Records wish you weren’t asking yourself right now: Who is Sky Ferreira?
Sky Ferreira, right. That mysterious girl with the white-blond hair who signed a million-dollar contract with Capitol at age 15, who got rushed around through dozens of studios and producers for two years in order to find a sound that “worked,” and who disappeared from the mainstream media when her label couldn’t find that sound. For a young girl to go through such an experience was difficult enough – to be shelved as a failure, Sky has said, was almost too much to bear.
But then last year, Sky Ferreira’s single “Everything Is Embarrassing” blew up on the interwebs, racking up over a million views on Youtube and earning a spot of Pitchfork’s annual Top 100 Tracks of 2012 list.
The single paired Sky’s smooth, mid-range voice with 80’s-style drum machines and synths to create the kind of light, understated pop song that the radio hasn’t seen for a good 20 years. Sky’s unique identity – that of a soft-spoken young woman who succeeded in music even though she didn’t fit her label’s role for her – suits the individualism of today’s youth culture perfectly. Her music, up to this point, has been warm, inviting and human all at the same time. So when I sat down to listen to Sky’s album, I was hoping for more of the same.
Sure enough, with “Night Time, My Time,” Sky Ferreira finds success in what she’s already become good at. Sky’s lyrics tackle often-clichéd subject matter (love, relationships, individualism) with finesse. Each chorus is huge, memorable and passionate.
Her voice, laid back yet confident, carries each song with no apparent effort. These are songs whose greatness is subtle. Most of the melodies are kept from leaping out of the sonic field; that is to say, “Night Time” is an album that could slip into the background but rewards those who pay attention.
Perhaps the most exciting element of “Night Time” is how passionate it sounds. Sky is just barely 21, and most of her lyrics are full of the lively love-struck yearning that fills our college courtship years. Maybe it’s just that I’m a hopeless romantic, but an album that starts with the words “I knew it was love” spoken like poetry is on to something.
Throughout the album, Sky rampages through lines like “There’s no tomorrow without you” and “He’s locked inside my head” as if they were the last words that humanity would hear. Sky’s exquisite vocal performance makes “Night Time, My Time” the sort of album that makes you feel as if it’s in love with you – a pretty nice feeling if I do say so myself. One that makes a gray Notre Dame morning seem a little less gray, if you will.
Of course, engaging lyrics are nothing without fantastic music to back them up. On its face, “Night Time, My Time” seems like a really solid pop album – many well-formed songs with pretty standard verse-chorus formats. The detail work, however, is phenomenal.
On the chorus opener “Boys,” one of Sky’s vocal lines stays low while the other climbs beautifully to near-falsetto heights. “Ain’t Your Right” boasts a shivering, thin guitar line that shreds against the heavy atmosphere of the song, creating juxtaposition between Ferreira’s smooth vocals and the harsher instrumental background. And then there are the racing arpeggios in “24 Hours” that amplify the last-night-alive theme of Sky’s lyrics. Every song brings something more to the table beyond its catchy chorus and impassioned lyrics, and in the world of pop music, that’s quite an incredible feat.
Contact John Darr at jdarr@nd.edu