Nite Jewel‘s Ramona Gonzalez takes special care to emphasize the nocturnal aspect suggested by her pseudonym, a quality apparent in “This Story,” the slow opening track on her new album One Second of Love. At the pace of an early ’90s R&B slow jam, but with a thick, syrupy synthesizer mix, “This Story” flips the typical weekend night progression upside down: here, the after-party comes first. It’s sultry, dewy-eyed and a little intoxicated, like that half-conscious cab ride home, and the fleeting period of bad judgment before your head hits the pillow. It seems like a denouement, but it’s actually an introduction, a strange and dreamy gateway into an album built for intimate evening interactions.
One Second of Love, Nite Jewel’s first album for Secretly Canadian, grows quicker in pace, catchier and more danceable, but pretty much everything here is optimized for play after dusk. That doesn’t, however, mean it’s a dark album, but rather one with a kind of magic not often present during daylight hours. The beats, funky guitar scratches and pulsing basslines conjure up an all-consuming starlit ethereality. And this comes in many forms, from rich new wave disco on the title track, to haunting sophisti-pop on “In the Dark,” and gentle, barely-there ambience on “Unearthly Delights.” And grounding even the most atmospheric, fluffiest tunes is Gonzalez’s own voice, a versatile instrument that makes the difference between music with genuine soul and that which merely strives for it.
Though not necessarily split into two contrasting halves, One Second of Love finds a particular divide between its first and second sides, with the former more beat-driven and the latter given space to float freely into lower impact realms. This, inevitably, means that the bulk of the highlights are in the first half. The title track is one of those, spacious enough on its own, but throbbing in all the right ways and carried by Gonzalez’s mesmerizing multi-tracked vocals. She drops some stutter-step New Jack Swing on “She’s Always Watching You,” taps into Sadé style smooth soul on “Mind & Eyes,” yet bolsters it with some heavy hitting live drums, and achieves a kind of sexy perfection on “In the Dark,” with her refrain of “holding hands in the dark” sounding both romantic and comforting. Most of what follows doesn’t quite achieve the heights reached here, but remain enchanting nonetheless, carrying out the album with a surreal kind of gorgeousness.
Where once Gonzalez and husband/collaborator Cole Grief-Neill were labeled “chillwave” for their dreamy, synth-based compositions, this is music with more social and hedonistic applications than codeine-addled reminiscences about childhood trips to the beach. The sexy, soulful feel to the album is designed for enjoyment with others, be it paired with drinking, dancing, embracing – perhaps even clothing optional. It compels the listener to get up, get out and do something fun. And if music can do that, then its creator is doing something right.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.