By Steve Jones.
Nite Jewel is LA-based musician Ramona Gonzalez. One Second of Love is her sophomore album, a foray into that '80s synth pop sound that I'm sure nobody is sick of by now!
I shouldn't start this review with such a dismissive attitude, though. Honestly, if I thought this was just another album of run-of-the-mill pop music, I wouldn't even be bothering with these words. Nite Jewel certainly isn't pushing any boundaries with her songs here, but she does have a knack for exuding a lot of personality throughout these 10 tracks and 37 minutes, and sometimes that's enough for me to take notice.
One of the best things Nite Jewel has going for her is Gonzalez's voice. In a word, it is soothing, and a nice accompaniment to the soft sounds found on One Second of Love. But she also maintains a good amount of weight behind her delivery, which bestows upon her songs a sense of substance. Let me say that the lack of this substance would be crippling for any lesser bands trying their hands at this sound. I also like particularly when she tends to stick to her lower registers, as well as the fact that her place in the mix is usually up front and clear, which is a serious boon. I find too often that other purveyors of this manner of dreamy pop will have vocals which get buried under a swirling swath of noise and reverb, but Gonzalez wisely plays to her advantage as a very good singer.
Where this album falls short for me is in terms of the songwriting and song construction. When I'm listening to an album, I'm listening for it to either A) excite me or B) entertain me (both at the same time are nice too). Nite Jewel really isn't going for anything groundbreaking with this record, which is fine, but her flavor of spacey synths and slow pop jams just don't do it for me. It's a situation where I immediately forget about the album as soon as it's over, and even though it is pleasant enough when I'm playing it, it's pretty easy for me to tune it out involuntarily. And if that's what you're looking for, have at it, but too much of One Second of Love is too much like other music I've heard played to death.
Even the title track, which promises some upbeat dance jamming, feels a little lifeless. I actually like the second half of the album better, when Gonzalez branches out a bit more into other sounds and genres. "Unearthly Delights," for instance, attacks the kind of old-world folk song you'd hear on an Espers record. I love the play of her voice with the minimal ambient synths and an actual guitar. It's a pretty cool combination. "No I Don't" is more in line with the other slow jams on the album, but its chord progression is one that takes hold of me and drags me into the melancholy of the piece. It also has a great guttural bass sound that works wonderfully on headphones. It's probably my favorite track. Finally, "Autograph" is some straight-up R&B grooving. In fact, I'd say the entirety of One Second of Love is more sonically adventurous than many similar albums, but it unfortunately fails to elevate the record completely out of the mundane.
I'm very picky about my modern synth pop, so I wouldn't be too worried about the fact that Nite Jewel doesn't quite make my cut with this LP. It's certainly not offensively bad in a way that pisses me off (like the similarly-named Kill for Love). It's just kinda meh, with a little bit of promise tempered by songs that just don't have any kind of impact on me, with a few exceptions. I think this could appeal to a lot of other people, however, so if you'd like some slightly brooding dreamy pop music, check out One Second of Love. Just don't expect it to change your mind about anything.
Score: Lite 6
(Steve Jones favorite jewel is the opal. Tell him your favorite at his Twitter @vestenet.)