Monday, October 11, 2010

Nite Jewel - Am I Real? EP

Ramona Gonzales, aka Nite Jewel, has been slowly building momentum with vintage electro-pop for a few years now. Underrated? Unmistakably. Bound to take over the indie music scene (Ariel Pink-style) any day now? You bet.

I’m convinced even more of her inevitable takeover after her latest EP, Am I Real? It’s not a complete departure from 2009’s full length Good Evening – Gonzales’s bedroom-pop, retro-tinged nod to fuzzy disco – but it is a hint at what’s likely to come in the future.

That is, she seems less concerned these days with lo-fi idiosyncrasies (perhaps she no longer feels the need for that kind of indie credibility?) and is embracing, impressively, a cleaner sound to showcase her pop sensibilities; I commend the effort because it pays off nicely. The synth line and primary beat in “White Lies” alone are so commanding, for instance, that they immediately undercut any assumptions that Gonzales is comfortable with re-hashing an old formula or resting on laurels from quickly fading music fads.

Essentially, the songs are perfectly modeled after sultry pop songs from years past – similar aesthetics can be found with artists like Ariel Pink of Geneva Jacuzzi – but Gonzales has finally polished her sound so that it now also mirrors the accessible and striking flair of pop icons like Madonna or Roxy Music. It was a bold and possibly polarizing move on her part, but I think she’s doing the right thing. In fact, after hearing new songs like “Am I Real?”, it’s hard to believe that Nite Jewel songs were once criticized for lacking hooks or distinguishable and engaging melodies (this critic, however, never made that argument).

As album opener “Another Horizon” starts, one can easily hear the crisp production and underlying drive to hook the listener and introduce an evolving Nite Jewel. And the rest of the EP plays out like I’d expect: it’s a collection of groovy, understated tunes appropriate for any situation, a reflection of Gonzales’s most endearing qualities. Certain aspects of the record echo some of Good Evening’s finest and haziest moments – like the hushed, atmospheric “Falling Far” – but this record is ultimately about change - a preview of Gonzales’s future efforts. I can’t wait to see what’s next.


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