A triumph of candour, clarity and considerable charm, this is a precious second LP.
Iain Moffatt 2012-03-16
Now, we like the Joan Collins-does-disco adult pop of Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and we like the slightly cyclonic confessional grown-up pop of Sophie B Hawkins, but which one's best? There's only one way to find out... Actually, while we'd admit that that particular fight would have more than its share of curiosity value, it's pretty clear that there's no rush to decide the outcome, since it now turns out that, to all intents and purposes, there's essentially the best bits of both on the same album. Result!
Ramona Gonzalez, of course, has thus far enjoyed the success of neither, but her second album as Nite Jewel (and debut for Secretly Canadian) would, in a just world, be the toast of not just the tasterati – which a combination of amateurish production and Ariel Pink acolytism secured some years back – but also a frequent fixture on Radio 2, 6 Music and the top 10 to boot. One Second of Love is arresting from the outset, Gonzalez's airily velveteen vocals cascading in with a similar invitingly icy inflection to St Vincent on Surgeon while luscious, Billy-Idol-does-Eyes Without a Face-esque keyboard washes burble by on their way to a skippily abrupt, if recoverable, meltdown. And, having ensnared via such a swiftly deployed barrage of brilliance, she continues to sprinkle spells galore across her path.
Realistically, of course, having the almost Robynian electro-plated angstsome vignettery of She's Always Watching You rub up against the sophisto-classicism of In the Dark should by rights be disastrous, to say nothing of Memory, Man's casual collision of muscular bubblegum and dream-pop dramatism. But while, lyrically, much of the album may paint its maker as more enthusiastically ingenuous than circumstance would be expected to allow (at least prior to the gorgeous happy ending Clive), there's little doubt that, musically at least, she's thoroughly in-charge-ly ingenious. Yet she does so without pandering, without ever rendering herself unsympathetic, and with a delirious disregard for the limitations of lo-fi that her towering, strident performance exiles to the sunset. Reborn as a triumph of candour, clarity, and considerable charm, Nite Jewel's become precious in the best possible sense.