It feels like a long time ago now, but back in December I posted a list of the twelve albums already announced for release this year that I was most looking forward to hearing. So far, the majority of those choices have proven my excitement justified, but none have confounded expectation quite as much as Nite Jewel’s One Second Of Love. Those familiar with Ramona Gonzalez’ previous releases would likely have heard the album’s first leaked track – “She’s Always Watching You” – as a logical, if impressive, progression from her debut’s lo-fi synth funk, its newly enhanced production values opening up the spaces between the jazzy, multi-tracked harmonies and taut, machine-driven rhythms to reveal a soaring avant-soul gem that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca; likewise the title track, whose Krautrockin’ Robyn bounce seemed to indicate the album would have an upbeat, accessible vibe that would see Gonzalez joining the likes of Lykke Li and Santigold among the ranks of the indie blogosphere’s pop princesses. But it seems the singer has laid something of a honey trap; the aforementioned tracks (and the jaunty “Memory Man”) aside, the rest of the record leans heavily towards down-tempo late-night torch song territory. It’s a brave move, and quite shocking at first, but one that offers some mesmerising moments. Opener “This Story” lays a majestic, sweeping vocal over a constantly shifting backdrop of skittering beats; “No I Don’t” and “Unearthly Delights” skillfully blend cavernous sub-bass and short-circuiting electronics into James Blake-style slo-mo cyber-blues, whilst “Autograph” channels Prince and ’90s girl-group R&B and closer “Clive” gives a spectral master-class in building tension and leaving an audience wanting more. It doesn’t always work (“Mind And Eyes”, with its fretless bass and rim-taps, treads perilously close to smug ’80s goons Level 42) but the new, mature sound is one that suits Nite Jewel well and, although it may not be the new jack swinging, hit-packed collection we were expecting, One Second Of Love still manages to surprise and delight in equal measure.
One Second Of Love is out March 6 on Secretly Canadian; listen to the album in full at the label’s Soundcloud page