Music Reviews
One Second of Love

Nite Jewel One Second of Love

(Secretly Canadian) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

When conversing about music, the reason why the mere mention of the word “eighties” flares all sorts of emotions and reactions is due to its warped outlook on what life was about. No other time period came even close to matching a collective sense of elation with the thriving economic prosperity of the time. Its sounds were supposed to demarcate Reagan’s motto of deregulating economy. It was meant to be free and chipper: more rhythmic, it stuck in the ears more and the beat was more contagious are phrases commonly said by those who lived though it.  How there’s a mass of young musicians fixated with the eighties is nothing more than a curiosity to recapture a past not that long ago that, looking at it with different eyes, seems much more exciting. And also, there’s the plain fact that many of the parents enjoyed the pleasantries of being young in that decade.

Ramona Gonzalez, who goes by Nite Jewel, emerged right smack in the middle of the lo-fi surge with a layer of faux-irony and affected self-awareness that would even get Aubrey Plaza to crack a smile. She was playing around with the concept, all the while rounding that image with a brand of urban-tinged, dance pop pastiche that actually sounded just as counterintuitive from the post-disco era, sans the unwarranted use of wobbly reverb that defined the late aughts indie scene. Gonzalez was one of the first to duplicate the silky, sophisticated sounds of neon signs and friendship pins for the engrossed on all-things-retro Gorilla vs. Bear demographic. And now, with the growing popularity of Grimes and backwards looking electronic imprint 100% Silk, its blissed-out, vertiginous grooves are rapidly approaching a standard commodity.

Flash-forward to two years later and we get One Second of Love, which finds Gonzalez maturing into a graceful songstress without entirely abandoning what inspired her in the first place. Just by taking the title track into account, with its pulsating synth bobs and funk-suffused undulations, there’s a noticeable progression in the how the production sparkles with a cherubic sheen. It also clears the space for Gonzalez to bring her vocals into the forefront: both serene and unspoiled, it softly punctuates with a soulful delivery, revealing an asset she always had that would’ve remained unnoticed had she continued the deliberately muddled ploy of past records. Most surprising is the direction she takes for In the Dark and Mind & Eyes, in which that coarse, earthy grit is reinstated with a poised, dub-like vibe that flows with a delicate, loungy Café del Mar evoking ambiance. The '80s freestyle slant she takes in She’s Always Watching You insists she’s not moving to a posher estate – but in emphasizing such a breezy demeanor, it also extracts some of that slinky R&B beat and comes out sounding a tad wilted.

The change of plot in One Second of Love is a surprising one, but it’s not entirely unexpected. While her contemporaries continue to seek for ways to make past sounds, mostly those closer to kitsch to earn that badge of distinctiveness, Gonzalez took it upon herself to position herself as a more proper artist. The Nite Jewel of two years ago wouldn’t have been capable of pulling off the imposing recording of album closer Clive, which essentially relies on Gonzalez to showcase a quiet croon while a barren, idyllic soundscape smoothes it until it blends like a dream. There’s a virtue in making art that’s untethered and free of all norms, an attribute that Gonzalez still possesses, and it’ll be fascinating to see where she takes this new approach. But occasionally, you get the sense that she was eager to leave the kids table.