Night Time, My TimeAlthough her first single appeared in 2010 Sky Ferreira has never released an album before. There appears to have been a lot of music recorded over a three year period, talk of albums near to completion and exciting collaborations, but very little has ever seen the light of day. It would appear that this is mainly due to Ferreira herself not being happy to release material that record companies and interested parties want her to release and therefore becoming an artist that certain sections of the music industry would rather not have to deal with. Either she is a highly volatile personality whose ego stands in the way of her producing consistently good material (hi Azealia!) or she is an artist in the more literal sense of the word who wants to only share material that she stands by. It’s satisfying then to hear, based on this new evidence, it is almost certainly the latter.

“Night Time, My Time” is a surprisingly taut guitar, drums and synths (in that order) album, with Ferreira herself sounding bright and pouting through the majority of it. The sexuality that informs the NSFW album sleeve portrait translates into the multi-harmonies that make up the wall of sound, mid-sixties girl group album opener “Boys”. The predominant electro-pop sound that runs through the majority of her previous releases does not dominate here and this collection sounds unlike anything else released by a female singer in 2013 who is within the genre of ‘pop artist’. Whilst not a retro album, the spirit of early Blondie, Joan Jett, Siouxsie Sioux and even Kim Wilde are alive and well and it’s these kind of stand-alone punk icons that Ferreira obviously feels a kinship with.

Ariel Rechtshaid (Charlie XCX, Vampire Weekend and Glasser), who produces the entire album, excels at creating wonderfully full soundscapes which bulge with intricate details and neat sonic flourishes (listen to Haim’s thrilling “My Song 5” for an example). On songs like the snarling “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)” and “Kids In America”-mugging “Ain’t Your Right”, Ferreira and Rechtshaid give “Night Time, My Time” a genuine indie rock-pop authenticity and power as a cohesive body of work and not just an exercise in producer placement. Regardless of whether acoustic specialist Jon Brion or pop god Greg Kurstin had taken the production reins here, as it was previously assumed they might (both have worked successfully with Ferreira before), none of this would work if the songs weren’t good enough, and Ferreira has always had an excess of brilliant tunes.

Fans who may possibly mourn the overall departure of more traditional pop songs like the towering, Kylie-like “One” from 2010 can still find solace here with three nuggets of airy and gleaming brilliance: “24 Hours”, “Love in Stereo” and, in particular, the defiant “I Blame Myself”. The latter finds Ferreira accusing her detractors ‘How could you know what it feels like to fight the hounds of hell? How could you know what it feels like to be outside yourself? You think you know me so well? I just want you to realise I blame myself for my reputation’.  And that still doesn’t take into account “Kristine”, a real weirdo of a track, short with deliberately hard to decipher lyrics that seem to reference shopping with said Kristine and the young millionaires with an ever
ascending melody key-line and the admission ‘even though I’m not bright, I can live in the bright town’. Its craziness is unexpected and brilliantly realised.

Ferreira has said that the album’s title comes from a line spoken by the tragic character Laura Palmer in David Lynch’s feature length film “Fire Walk with Me”, more commonly known as Twin Peaks, or at least a less successful prequel to the hugely popular TV show of that name. There is an incredibly affecting scene in the film where Laura Palmer speaks about falling in space and how eventually you would burst into flames and the angels wouldn’t save you as they are all gone. A haunting insight into the lead character’s eventual death, Ferreira incorporates this dialogue into the title track’s lyrics; the bad girl punished by death.  It’s a sombre close to an otherwise uplifting and exhilarating album and musically it’s lifted straight from Tricky’s 1995 trip hop classic, ‘Maxinquaye’. It’s sticky and drunken with Ferreira coolly accepting her potential fate. This track alone confirms the risks she clearly wanted to take with her first album, it’s impossible to imagine any one of pop’s golden girls making anything as desolate sounding as this; it’s how you may expect Lady Gaga to sound if you had only seen her.

Heavy Metal Heart” may go precisely nowhere and “Omanko” takes a novelty turn in the wrong direction but this still doesn’t prevent Sky Ferreira’s album from being a massive achievement. Her current reputation as the hipster bloggers’ poster girl is troubling as it is questionable.  How much of that is due to the music as opposed to the image of a seemingly nihilistic, with occasional low self-esteem issues, ex-model? This is a pop artist, though, and image is arguably as important as sound. What Ferreira has done with “Night Time, My Time” is that she has made a record where it isn’t necessary to rely on visual props to fully relate to and enjoy the music. In that way it seems quite old fashioned and there is little doubt whilst listening to it that she loves these songs and making them come to life.  If you were impressed but unmoved by some of the bigger, shinier releases from the last four months of 2013, then this album may relieve some of your pessimism.  She may have taken an age to do it and it’s very early to say, but Sky Ferriera may have made one of the best albums of 2014.

Product DetailsMNDR is best known for being the shared lead vocalist on Mark Ronson’s last album’s first single, the eccentric “Bang Bang”. She is as charismatic a singer and performer as her vocals and video presence confirmed in this 2010 hit for Ronson and it’s taken 3 years for her full-length album to arrive. Her oldest song “C.L.U.B”, oddly re-titled “U.B.C.L” here, originally released in 2009, still sounds innovative and fresh and like the shockingly-ignored (at least commercially) Cocknbullkid, MNDR has the ability to write a pop song and become the kind of interesting pop star that once upon a time would have actually charted and been on TOTP. These days though, due to a uniformity of sound that doesn’t seem to want to budge (stadium dance or Adele), when it comes to Top 20 success she unfortunately doesn’t stand a chance. But let’s not worry about that, some of you reading this won’t even know what TOTP is and there are a thousand ways to promote music in 2012.

MNDR and her invisible partner in musical crime Peter Wade have made a brash, fashionable electronic dance album but thankfully its roots are in more traditional, song-based pop melodies. “#1 in Heaven”, (or Evan as MNDR endearingly pronounces it and not the similarly-titled Sparks song in case you’re wondering), is a big, euphoric singalong ‘Tell them I’m smiling, send them my greetings’ she joyfully refrains in a song that I would love to see in the top ten. The appropriately speeding “Faster Horses” shares equal billing as the best song here and “Stay” is based round a “Funky Drummer” loop, a sample used ad infinitum in late 80’s dance music, and adds a little shading to the overall pretty frantic pace and is the definition of the perfect album track. “Fall in Love with the Enemy” opens with a teeth-gnashing snyth that sounds a lot like a metallic “Hey Big Spender” and continues to dominate and charm in equal measure.

Burning Hearts” is an equally angular but more glacial track that really highlights MNDR’s personality with its cascading ‘oh, oh, oohs’ and perfect middle eight. All these little but so very important  touches demonstrates that she understands pop in a way someone like Robyn does and Cheryl Cole doesn’t. Vocally she is sometimes reminiscent of Kim Wilde and readers who know what TOPT stands for will also remember “Chequered Love” (I wonder if I can get this on tape?!).  “Feed Me Diamonds”, the title track, has the feeling of being an important song to MNDR and it does have a grandness and drama that anchors the album with some very eighties clanging and clattering going on before a middle tempo groove is established with the best vocal performance on the album.

The last quarter of the album is not as strong and the final songs start sounding like any electro indie female artist from the last 5 years or so; not bad but not up to the standard of  the brilliant first half. I hope that MNDR finds a way to promote this album effectively as there is more than a hint of star quality here and I would like to hear it develop. And it actually gets an extra half a star as well.