I'll be the judge of that.

On Sky Ferreira and Her Incredible New Album

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Sky Ferreira is an interesting figure. I mean, like, really interesting. She grew up family friends with Michael Jackson. She modeled for Calvin Klein. She did a music video with Terry Richardson over a year before Miley. She’s in Eli Roth’s upcoming neo-grindhouse cannibal flick, Green Inferno. She’s dating DIIV’s Zachary Cole Smith, with whom she was arrested last month for possession of heroine and ecstasy.

She’s only 21-years-old.

And she may have just released the record of the year.

Let me start at the beginning. I’ve been in love with Sky Ferreira since the moment I heard “Everything Is Embarrassing,” a track so endlessly cool in its casual melancholy that it remains one of my favorite songs of all time. The video (below) was shot all in one day with absolutely no budget. It’s one of the best music videos I have ever seen in my life.

Needless to say, I’ve been beyond excited to see where her career went from there.

But as her full-length debut, Night Time, My Time, drew closer, I ended up approaching the release with a fair amount of trepidation. This past Spring, Ferreira released Ghost, to relatively limited fanfare. Don’t get me wrong; it was a very respectable, very enjoyable EP, with great songs like “Lost in My Bedroom” and “Red Lips.” It did well critically, and laid the groundwork for her being taken seriously.

But in my view, Ghost failed to really capture her intrinsic coolness, and seemed overly concerned with her trying on different artistic hats. The re-recorded version of “Everything Is Embarrassing” seemed to lose something in translation. I remember thinking it was good, but that she was capable of much, much better.

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The first sign that Night Time, My Time would be a strong, serious effort was when she released the daring cover art (above) about a month ago. The photograph is shot by Gaspar Noé, the French filmmaker/provocateur/visionary responsible for transgressive filmic outrage I Stand Alone (1998), as well as his experimental cinematography and challenging narrative structures in Irreversible(2002)and Enter the Void (2009). I consider Noé the most viscerally talented filmmaker on the planet. So while her oblique references to Twin Peaks on social media first alerted me to her good taste, I was legitimately impressed at this collaboration.

My hopes, if not my expectations, were getting exceedingly high.

However, nothing could have prepared me for just how flawless Night Time, My Time ended up being. This is a remarkably coherent pop statement, and one that wisely trades currently ubiquitous “electro” impulses for a decidedly 80’s pop-rock feel. Ariel Rechtshaid’s touch for this kind of production is remarkable. And for good measure, the album title, as well as the title track’s chorus is a Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me reference.

Her lyrics are simultaneously precious and self-aware, with understated vocals giving voice to a sense of confidence that could only have come from someone perennially self-conscious. Nowhere is this clearer than on “I Blame Myself,” the record’s most instantly iconic and addictive track. By asserting plainly, “I just want you to realize…I blame myself for my reputation,” she accomplishes what virtually no other celebrity can manage, it seems: accepting responsibility for who she is and how we see her. And at this particular pop culture moment, that strikes one as pretty profound.

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In many ways, Ferreira is a close pop-cultural cousin to Lana Del Rey. Quite similar to Lana Del Rey (who I wrote about here and here), Ferreira has been working on distancing herself from a somewhat unflattering past as an underachieving teen pop idol. To give you an idea of what that was like, her quaint debut EP was called As If! and it featured songs with silly titles like “Sex Rules” and “Haters Anonymous.” (One never would have guessed, in a billion years, that we were dealing with an ardent David Lynch fan.) In general, the record’s combination of superficial content and uninspired production made for a trite, forgettable affair.

Also like Del Rey, whose wealthy family privileges helped in part to launch her career, Ferreira grew up with some very interesting connections to the music industry. She was raised by her grandmother, who did Michael Jackson’s hair for thirty years. As a result, Ferreira grew up visiting and spending her birthdays with the King of Pop himself, and came to consider him an actual friend.

But she also differs in some significant respects. For one thing, Sky Ferreira is her real name. Arbitrary as it is, this might be why Ferreira seems to get a pass for her bubblegum past and hipster reinvention, whereas Lana Del Rey (formerly Lizzie Grant and May Jailer)  will never really live it down.

And while something about Lana leads me to believe we wouldn’t have been friends in high school (but maybe college), the opposite seems true of Sky.One covers “Blue Velvet” and claims to have never finished a David Lynch film, and the other puts Dale Cooper and Leland Palmer on her Instagram. I worship them both, but there’s a difference.

Anyway, check out the album. It’s perfect.

10/10

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