October 14, 2012

Album Review: Sky Ferreira's Ghost EP

Sky Ferreira has had a few false starts since entering the pop world in 2010. That year, she made her first and most brilliant impact with "One," a Best Songs-worthy sugar-sweet synth pop gem produced by Swedish hitmakers Bloodshy & Avant (Britney Spears, Madonna) that was released around the same time as a few other electro-pop singles saw the actress-model-singer triple threat team up with high-profile names like Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen) and former 4 Non Blonde and Christina Aguilera songwriting staple, Linda Perry. A formal full-length never materialized amidst all this as Ferreira struggled to carve out her own niche in a highly competitive pop market where sounding "of the moment" against chart toppers like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry or sub-culture critical darlings like Robyn just isn't good enough to guarantee a long-term shelf life. On top of this, Ferreira has been busy plastering her voluptuous lips and doe eyes across campaigns for Calvin Klein and Adidas. After axing most of the tracks that were to appear on her shelved full-length debut Wild at Heart to again reassess her artistic direction, Sky Ferreira has finally found a few strong choices to take her music into on the Ghost EP.

Do your homework on Ferreira, and it becomes quickly evident that the fresh-faced 20-year-old is incredibly well-connected throughout the industry on all levels. She grew up around Michael Jackson, hits up fashion shows with Kanye West and counts next-gen influences Charli XCX, Grimes and former GIRLS' frontman Christopher Owens as her peers. Ferreira's music reaps the greatest benefits of having friends in all the right places on the Ghost EP, as it boasts production and songwriting credits from Blood Orange, Jon Brion, Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson, Ariel Rechtshaid and reclusive indie songwriter Cass McCombs (Rechstshaid produced McCombs' latest efforts alongside those of Blood Orange -- You do the math.) It's a diverse spread of sonic influences, but each manages to contribute its own separate strength to the EP's various facets. Jon Brion's piqued detail of crafting stripped and timeless-sounding tunes brings out a breathtaking version of Ferreira in the vain of Fiona Apple on opener, "Sad Dream," while Brion's other helmed contribution in the EP's title track dresses her up an alt-country outfit with the help of McCombs, a number that surely draw parallels in a less bratty way with Brion's recent work on Best Coast's The Only Place. Both flex Ferreira's vocal range in ways her dance-pop tracks had yet not, so any questions whether Ferreira is legitimately capable of belting out a song where she's the focal point are put to rest. Where Ferreira stands the greatest chance at succeeding, however, is in those perfectly-produced synthetic diamonds from Rechtshaid and Blood Orange. "Lost In My Bedroom," a track that surfaced earlier this spring as a demo, has since been cleaned of its fuzzy overlays, with the end result being a dreamier rendition that doesn't lose its throbbing electro-pop heartbeat. "Everything Is Embarrassing" on the other hand is Ghost's clandestine closer that likely indicates a more current and matured portrait of Ferreira's artistic and emotional development, with a crisp, glassy beat that circles around a sulking chorus that isn't yet too down and out to waver around to in your bedroom all by yourself.

This may all seem a bit of a disjointed approach when assembled together (especially when you throw in the grungy yet fierce electro-clash number, "Red Lips," penned by Shirley Manson,) but Sky Ferreira's reintroduction on the Ghost EP at the very least proves the young pop starlet is on her way to finding herself in her sound. As an EP, hearing Ferreira try on a few different styles isn't all that damning. In fact, it gives her the rare opportunity to send feelers out to listeners and gain some constructive criticism along the way. What's most difficult about that here, though, is that Ferreira offers up a balanced sampler of very good to excellent songs that could feasibly all become singles, which goes without saying that the many faces of Sky Ferreira we hear on Ghost add up to one of the year's best pop treasures.

Sky Ferreira's Ghost EP will be released October 16, 2012 on Capitol Records.

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