Devon Welsh writes songs and lyrics in Majical Cloudz. His opinions are neither to be taken seriously nor to be trusted.
In an attempt to reconcile the apparent hypocrisy of this piece of writing, I suggest that it be the last piece on Night Time, My Time that you ever read.
Type “Sky Ferreira” into Google. Read the articles. Look at the image results. Read the Wikipedia entry. Scroll through the Twitter account, reading every tweet. Take a glance at every photo on the Instagram. Read the comments; count the favorites. Favorite a photo and see the little heart turn red.
When you read it on the internet, the name appears in the middle of a chaotic media-information storm, inseparable from lists of recognizable names vaguely signifying “celebrity” and networks of interrelated pseudo-tabloid stories detailing drugs, parties, exclusivity. Someone living out their youth in the shadow of a development deal and waging a near-constant battle to maintain her identity over and against the wishes of a record label, all while in the crosshairs of those who would be suspicious of this individuality, who would view it as a cynical marketing of rebellion.
First, “Everything is Embarrassing,” the song I listened to dozens of times after seeing it on Pitchfork. Then the accompanying controversy: who wrote the song? Was the version Sky Ferreira released online the demo version, never intended to be heard? Who was behind the song, under what circumstances was it recorded, and in whose interest was it released? Who is Sky Ferreira? The song and accompanying artwork suggest a bedroom pop singer.
Then discover the long and somewhat incongruous series of earlier releases, evidence of a past in music,Top 40 hits that never were and a relationship with Capitol Records. The words “self-released” underneath “Everything is Embarrassing” on the Pitchfork track post, did not tell the full story. Was the dissonance between “self-released” and Capitol Records merely apparent or actual?
The storm seemed to grow. A few months later, her name formed a part of the tapestry of the “indie” music blogosphere. A few months after that, media related to her relationship with Zachary Cole Smith of DIIV was ubiquitous. I have never met either of them but simply by engaging with music media on Twitter and elsewhere, I feel like I know them. Of course I don’t, but media celebrity (especially when it relates to the love between two familiar faces) is a powerful illusion. Love is especially hard to dismiss as a marketing gimmick. You think, “This is good for them, this is what we all want: true love.”
Then you read the blotter detailing their arrest in New York State, each caught carrying drugs. Pitchfork, having started the story by posting “Everything is Embarrassing,” introduced the next plot conflict by sharing the arrest report. And so into the storm came heroin, which, when mixed with celebrity, we associate with dying young.
With those who would defend and those who would be suspicious evenly divided, and a fog of confusion enveloping anyone in between, Night Time, My Time comes out.
I got a link that would allow me to stream the record in advance of its release, as well as read a page-long press release. I listened through it once, read the release, and went to sleep. Then the link expired. But I could still read the press release, which talked about Madonna, about fashion, and, in a roundabout way, about the media storm. In fact, it perpetuated the storm. The storm was all I had left; in my mind the record itself was something obscured and mysterious, tantalizing because it promised to ground and focus all the speculation and misplaced curiosity.
I eventually got another crack at hearing. What does it sound like? It sounds like fun. Many of the songs sound completely massive — huge drums anchor thick synthesizer chords. People could dance to most of this record if it was put on a stereo in someone’s basement. Records like that are rare.
When I was younger I would have smoked some pot, put on my headphones, and allowed this music to dictate the direction of my imagination. Now, I might put it on and try to figure out every lyric, think about what the songs mean together, what they might mean for their author and what they mean to me. In any case, listening to Night Time, My Time was an experience entirely removed from “Sky Ferreira,” the Google search. The record had almost nothing to do with it.
How would I rate it? I think it deserves not to be rated, or at least I feel uncomfortable passing a definitive judgment on it because that seems like the answer to the big question that the media storm was implicitly asking: “Do we deify her or tear her apart?”
Better to understand Night Time, My Time as something that could be meaningful to you. Unlike “Sky Ferreira,” the Google search, your familiarity with the record would not be an illusion — the record is there for you to know. Its songs do not come to you at a remove; they have the immediacy that comes with any collection of songs and there’s none of the tabloid culture that has surrounded this release. The moments on the record that I really enjoy are the ones that depart the most from the sounds of radio pop. The title track, which ends the record, is a beautiful anomaly. Its droning strings and slow tempo remind me of the Velvet Underground. I could easily listen to an entire record of songs with this orientation, but unfortunately it is the exception on Night Time, My Time. When I saw the song played live at the Pitchfork Paris festival, it was even more droning and shambolic than on record. The vocals could not be mixed into the background during the chorus, and as a result the chorus had a significant power that is only hinted at in the recording. I really like the melodies in this song, and there is not much getting in the way of the power of the droning notes that carry them.
As far as the more energetic tracks go, the one I enjoy most is “Ain’t Your Right.” The song sticks to a few simple ingredients — the constant, thumping kick drum, the droning guitars, the occasional twinkling synth-thing, the vocals — and doesn’t overstep into the kind of full-blown pop song that I’m less personally interested in.
The main thing that bothers me about Night Time, My Time is the lack of stylistic cohesion. I’m guessing there were several different ideas about where the record could go, and eventually it included a few songs representing each idea. I can imagine a record that could include both “Ain’t Your Right” and “Night Time, My Time,” where the former would have been the energetic single and the latter would have more closely represented the overall emotional tone of the album. Alternatively, I can imagine a possible record that would be full-blown anthemic pop and could include both “24 Hours” and “You’re Not the One,” or a possible soft-rock nostalgic record that could include “I Blame Myself” and “Love in Stereo.” All of these different possible records feel mutually exclusive. The record that was actually made hangs together less as a stylistic whole and more as a sampler of different approaches to the intentions of the “pop song” – concision, uncanny familiarity, and commandment of the listener’s attention.
I still feel that I know more about “Sky Ferreira,” the Google search, than the musician behind Night Time, My Time. I just spent the majority of this piece summarizing the narrative of the media storm (and all the summaries of it could probably constitute their own media storm). But I hope there will be more talk about the music and less about the person, or better, that people will have fulfilling personal experiences with this music and forget about the talk altogether.