Kinks Worked Out

Sky Ferreira puts it all together

by Aidan Morgan

cd-skySky Ferreira
Night Time, My Time
Capitol
4 out of 5

Every year, Prairie Dog music writers cry bitter tears over the great music releases they’ve neglected. Then a man1 comes to the door and says, “Buck up, lugubrious reviewer, and pull out your favourite forgotten albums.”

It’s like a Christmas miracle.

My most shameful omission is actually fairly recent: Sky Ferreira’s debut LP, Night Time, My Time arrived Oct. 29. Ferreira attracted the attention of record labels when she started sending her songs out to producers at the age of 14. What followed were several years of false starts and creative disputes as Big Music attempted to repackage her spiky sensibility into a marketable product. On two EPs from 2011 and 2012 –– the poppy As If! and scattershot Ghost –– she tried out a series of styles, with mixed results.

It turns out Big Music just needed to get out of the way. Night Time, My Time is an enchanting combination of ’70s underground sensibility and ’80s electropop. The album is all contradiction: raw but nuanced, confrontational but exquisitely pop-friendly, nicely balanced between radio-ready tracks and songs that would have been called “college music” in the ’90s. Tracks like “24 Hours” and “Love in Stereo” feel like John Hughes soundtrack hits from an alternate universe. The standout song, “I Blame Myself”, contains one of the most honest and incisive commentaries I’ve heard on living as a public figure — wrapped in a killer Madonna-esque melody.

The Gaspar Nöe-shot cover image of a topless Ferreira in the shower, posed like a nightmare-doll version of Janet Leigh from Psycho, nicely encapsulates her persona: a calculated provocation that still feels authentic, if only because she’s clearly calling the shots. Never mind the Beyoncés; Ferreira’s made one of the best pop albums of the year.

1. James Brotheridge.

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cd-drawnshipDrawn Ship
Ghost Weight
Scratch
4 out of 5

Lyn Heinemann of Drawn Ship’s talent for using plain words and simple instrumentation to convey complex ideas has never been more obvious than on “Gabriel Dumont”, a track from the Vancouver trio’s October-released album. Dumont’s a complex figure, as seen in Darren Prefontaine’s Saskatchewan Book Award-winning book on the man. Unlike that work, which includes endlessly fascinating artistic interpretations of the Métis leader, Heinemann sticks to strictly biographical details, painting a portrait that resists easy mythologizing. Instead, she reveals the seemingly contradictory traits of one of Canadian history’s most intriguing figures. And man, she does it so sweetly, cooing “Louis, oooh-ooh, come back to Red River.” Heinemann and Co. prove equally effective and frequently devastating with their understated, unflinching songs navigating the rocky straits of existence. /Emmet Matheson

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cd-freeloveFreelove Fenner
Do Not Affect a Breezy Manner
Fixture
4 out of 5

I’m so glad we’re sneaking in reviews we shamefully missed in the past year, because holy shit are Freelove Fenner going to start a revolution. Soon, indie bands from all over are going to start trying to make albums like this one –– short, elegant, stripped-down tunes with just the right amount of psychedelia to keep things interesting and textual. At the time of this writing, the record has hit number two on the !earshot college radio charts.

The band isn’t backed by big money forcing it into the audience’s ears. Rather, it’s resonating with a larger audience because of its musical merit and the prevailing winds. Hark! I can hear the dying whimpers of group choruses, too much reverb and one-hook ponies in Canada’s indie-rock scene. Their death rattle is music to my ears. /Amber Goodwyn

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cd-bleachedBleached
Ride Your Heart
Dead Oceans
4 out of 5

Earlier this year, my band was asked to open for a band we’d never heard of called Bleached. A show is a show, so we immediately accepted. We had no idea how cool a gig we’d landed. Once we finished, the band — an L.A. bubblegum punk act fronted by two sisters — took the stage and played with the reckless, breakneck speed of a motorcycle gang. Even before they unplugged their amps, Bleached had become one of my new favourite live bands.

On Ride Your Heart, they combine syrupy melodies with surf guitar lines plus a side of California dirt. All the songs seem to be about boys, heartbreak and romance –– a cliché that plateaued in the ’60s –– but the members don’t come across as naive as all that. They’re really scuzz-punks paying homage to the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las, like what the Ramones did for the Beach Boys. /Chris Morin

2013-12-26