Nite Jewel One Second of Love

[Secretly Canadian; 2012]

Styles: synthpop, electronica, funk/R&B, adult contemporary
Others: Little Dragon, DâM-FunK, Tracey Thorn, Cameo, Italians Do It Better

Opening your album with “I’m a broken record/ You have heard this before” is nothing if not a brave statement. The truth, though, is that we haven’t heard this before, at least not in LP form. One Second of Love is quite a different beast from Nite Jewel (a.k.a. Ramona Gonzalez)’s 2009 debut, Good Evening. The latter emerged in the heyday of the genre formerly liked as chillwave, and though other acts were closer to the epicenter of that sound, Gonzalez’ elegant lo-fi synths, bedroom beats, indistinguishable vocals, and general air of melancholy were definitely zeitgeistly.

Despite the inevitable critical turn against ‘chillwave’ (Hegel had nothing on us guys), I describe Good Evening in this way without intending pejorative connotations. That album’s ghostly subtlety — Gonzalez aptly terms her sound ‘liquid cool’ — as well as its lack of overt references to cassettes or pixelated video games, was an impressive pleasure. But in the meantime, Gonzalez has been polishing her (indie-) funk/R&B chops with the likes of DâM-FunK, intentions that were announced on tracks like their joint piece, “Am I Gonna Make It,” and her cover of obscure 1980s funkster Prophet. In doing so, on One Second of Love Gonzalez has literally cleaned up her act (ironically, given that funk and R&B, even of the synthetic variety, are more usually known for their down-and-dirtiness).

This is a deeply likeable record, one that works both as a smooth background to a classic enchanted evening deterritorialized to Patrick Nagel’s 1980s (a balcony, a glass of champagne, a backless dress, plate glass) and as a sheeny, bittersweet closer listen. That era/tmosphere is emphasized on “She’s Always Watching You,” with its chilled-out but recognizable echo of Prince’s “Dirty Mind,” and we can see as representative the subtle sidestep made here, away from Good Evening’s version of Roxy Music’s “Lover.”

Ultimately, though, all this is not quite enough to elevate One Second of Love up to the penthouse of greatness. Gonzalez’ voice is beautiful, but it doesn’t have the emphatic uniqueness to carry the album on its own, while the songwriting, though producing gems like the EBTG-esque, understated “Mind & Eyes” is just uneven enough to fade occasionally into the background. Meanwhile, the lyrics — now foregrounded rather than concealed lo-fi style — tend toward the clichéd (“I’ve got your autograph/ It is on my heart… You are one of a kind”).

Are mondegreens Freudian? Your humble scribe once misheard Tiger Army’s line “In the sepulchre of my heart” as “subwoofer of my heart.” I was deeply disappointed to discover the auditory truth — and so it is on One Second’s closing track, “Clive”: “No fun, no work, no play/ And Nietzsche will take it away.” Oh wait, amnesia. Stripping away the chillwaveils, Gonzalez reveals herself — Ecce Femina — but proves human, all too human.

Links: Nite Jewel - Secretly Canadian

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