When the general public act as pop gatekeepers, they tend to anoint stars according to how relatable they seem. Something that never works out in the long run since, almost inconceivably, nice middle-aged mums don’t make the world’s most compelling pop stars. Sky Ferreira is the polar opposite of the homely type: her background includes childhood holidays with Michael Jackson, sexual abuse at the hands of a neighbour, getting signed at 17 but kept on the shelf while her label decided how to position her, and being arrested last summer for allegedly pulling a Thelma & Louise with her boyfriend, Diiv’s Zachary Cole Smith.
Much has been made of how Ferreira’s borderline absurd background feeds into her long-awaited debut, ‘Night Time, My Time’ – and her reputation, survival and vengeance undoubtedly fuel songs like ‘I Blame Myself’ and ‘Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)’. But more remarkable than ‘Night Time…’’s hard-won release is how brilliantly universal it is without sacrificing any of its weirdness.
These songs are laced with betrayal, disappointment and self-loathing, experiences that are second nature to young women struggling to assert themselves in an oppressive society that won’t let them have it any which way. But rather than wallow, Ferreira’s triumphant choruses fit the late film director John Hughes’ assertion that when you’re a teenager, it “feels as good to feel bad as it does to feel good”. While you doubt that 21-year-old Ferreira would ever choose to relive her own teenage years, she makes the business of unrequited crushes and useless boys feel like high-stakes magic in much the same way Hughes did.
Written and recorded in two weeks with Ariel Rechtshaid and Justin Raisen, the production on ‘Night Time…’ spins the residual sweetness of My Bloody Valentine and Suicide’s squall into industrial pop songs fit for Cyndi Lauper or The Buggles – albeit so blown out they make speakers crackle. Coupled with Ferreira’s knack for a heady, evocative lyric (take “Love at first sight/Silent rays of blue/They slowly glide right down my spine” from ‘You’re Not The One’), it’s an all-enveloping record that puts the listener at the centre of the overwhelming intensity of Ferreira’s life these past few years – and offers a front-row seat to her wrestling back control.