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Nite Jewel - One Second of Love

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Artist: Nite Jewel

Album: One Second of Love

Label: Secretly Canadian

Review date: Jun. 6, 2012

A couple years ago, Nite Jewel was smack dab in the center of the lo-fi movement. Her Good Evening combined rich, hip notions of aesthetic slumming it — the musical equivalent of a poverty vaycay — with a genuine reaction to the complexity of contemporary home recording. This isn’t to cast aspersions on Ramona Gonzalez. I don’t care what her motives or economic background are: I just thought Good Evening was fine, but not remarkable, backwards-looking without having anything really new to say about lo-fi and without a strong aesthetic vision.

What’s interesting about Gonzalez’s latest album, One Second of Love, is that while the lo-fi production is left by the wayside, she is still looking backwards, but this time you could argue she has something aesthetically engaging. The music and the singing remind me a lot of the synth pop that I grew up with in the 1980s and early ’90s, but where a lot of that was (or at least through the nostalgic lens of a few decades seems) broad, Gonzalez is more nuanced, both lyrically and musically. Maybe I’m just a sucker for existential anxiety, though, and singing “See life goes on and on and on and on” in the title track speaks to the part of my brain that loves Woody Allen and fears dying.

What’s more interesting about the album though is that it represents another example of the complete and total breakdown of meaningful genre lines, and distinctions between mainstream and indie. There are, of course, plenty of albums that defy straight genre classifications and there are, of course, plenty of crossover hits, but starting in the early 2000s, the indie appropriation of mainstream hip-hop and R&B started. One Second of Love is the end result of this, taking the quasi-R&B of The Dirty Projectors to its logical conclusion. Some of Gonzalez’s songs are fairly straight R&B numbers — not perhaps something one would hear on the radio today, like Beyonce — but certainly not an ironic or cockeyed take on the genre.

Gonzalez is about a decade younger than me, which means the synth pop and R&B I remember from my grade-school days was hitting her just as a young child. Those songs seems to stay with people more than any other music that one gets into later in life. There’s something about it that surpasses nostalgia, something that hits us right in our lizard brains, that gets to our core as people. I was rewatching a Freaks and Geeks episode the other day, one with a heavy Billy Joel soundtrack. Joel, a favorite of my mom’s, was a fixture of our household when I was very young, and hearing him again hit me in a way my favorite bands can’t. I don’t exactly like Joel, but also I apparently love him a lot. That early music is fascinating to people in a way that goes deeper than anything else, and for musicians and artists, all those early things spill out in the things we make. Gonzalez does that here in a fun and remarkable way.

By Andrew Beckerman

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