***1/2 (out of four)
I don’t know how many artists have appeared naked on their debut album’s cover, but it can’t be very many. With a facial expression that says either “Why do things have to be so tough?” or “What are you doing in my shower?” Sky Ferreira’s photo for her long-delayed “Night Time, My Time” presents not just physical vulnerability but an emotional openness that many young singers—cough, Selena Gomez—omit from their personality-free material.
The approach matches Ferreira’s startling appearance at Pitchfork 2013, during which the 21-year-old singer broke down crying several times, unable to handle the big stage or the attention or another mysterious weight on her shoulders. Recently canceling some shows due to a vocal cord injury and later arrested on drug charges, Ferreira’s problems seem to be varied and consistent. I hope she’s OK, and not just because “Night Time, My Time” is really good—a thoughtful, composed effort from an artist recognizing her struggles to keep it together.
Admittedly, I don’t get “Omanko,” in which Ferreira sings about “Japanese Jesus” and “gearing up for a Japanese Christmas.” Otherwise, the album is one affecting, wounded pop gem after another, delivered with a voice that tells you the singer feels every word deeply. From “I Blame Myself” (a direct acknowledgment of her public perception) to “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)” to “You’re Not the One,” Ferreira is battling inner and outer demons with no clear winner. The music is as catchy as the lyrics are sad or assertive—or both.
There’s sweetness and loneliness in “Love in Stereo,” and “Boys,” on which Ferreira sings, “You put my faith back in boys,” may be drunkenly added to college mix CDs by girls with slurred thoughts saying, “I’m not sure if I should be doing this, but what the hell, he deserves to know how I feel.” Guitars and keyboards flirting, miscommunicating and compromising, Ferreira’s songs have high replay value even if you’re not at a place where lines like “You make my heavy metal heart beat” will register.
If you are, watch out. Your emotions have a voice in an artist who’s not able to contain her passion and exhaustion either.
In concert: Nov. 23 at Vic Theatre.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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