In 2011, Sky Ferreira released the As If EP, a bouncy collection of playful electro-pop anthems, sarcastic kiss-off tracks and gorgeous Swede-pop production by the likes of pop’s most trusted players, including Bloodshy & Avant, Greg Kurstin and Klas Åhlund.
But as an acoustic guitar comes softly strumming into the speakers within the first few moments of “Sad Dream”–the opening song from her 2012 EP Ghost, which was released last week–the electro-pop princess of As If already feels like a distant memory from years ago.
Devoid of vocoders and processed beats, the Blake Mills-produced track–just one of the bold new musical directions Sky explores on her new collection–sees the songstress ditching the glitchy beats of her last EP in favor of lonesome guitar plucks and earnest, country-tinged crooning. The result is something of a cross between Johnny Cash and Lana Del Rey, as Sky bares her (very young) soul atop a much more raw, organic production. “Only ever in dreams I wrap my arms around you,” Ferreira tenderly croons above the aching guitar, in what is surely one of her most intimate and personal recordings yet.
Later on, title track “Ghost,” produced by the massively talented Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Kanye West) sees the songstress drifting across a similarly slow-staggering, desolate country twang: “What should I do now that I know that we’re doomed?/I loved you most, now you’re a ghost,” she painfully cries out. Along the way, she delivers one of my favorite lyrics of the EP: “My voice is silent, but my thoughts are loud.”
But Sky isn’t entirely full of anguish her new record, and the production isn’t always so stripped down either: Sometimes, she seethes. Loudly.
“Red Lips,” her collaboration with Garbage‘s iconic rock goddess Shirley Manson, plays like the unofficial sequel to Garbage’s “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go),” as the acidic side of Sky’s attitude comes pouring out above an intimidating stabs of guitars and a wicked drum pulse. “Such a big girl/Such big news/Such a big talk/Your number’s up if you like it or not, what a shock,” she sarcastically growls atop the crashing chorus.
“Lost In My Bedroom” is the EP’s closest nod to the electro-pop that first propelled Sky into the spotlight, but the production–courtesy of Charli XCX collaborator Ariel Rechtshaid–is still a moodier affair. “It’s just what I imagined, I’m lost in my bedroom/It’s just what I imagined” she moans on repeat above a fuzzy Goldfrapp-esque beat and sparkles of Kleerup-esque electronica. It’s utterly mesmerizing.
And then, there’s Ferreira’s latest reinvention, and one of her most impressive yet: “Everything Is Embarrassing.” Produced by Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) and Rechtshaid, the song finds Ferreira shifting into soulful songstress territory atop an early ’80’s striding R&B beat. “I’ve been hating everything, everything that could have been,” she croons, “Could have been my anything/Now everything’s embarrassing.”
The track shares similarities with Solange‘s “Losing You,” which was also produced by Blood Orange, but there’s haunting nostalgia lingering in Sky’s production—from the endlessly repeatable, echoing beat, to the heavy piano chords and sparkles of wistful electronica, to Sky’s world-weary vocals (the hallmark of any Ferreira production)–that makes “Everything” not only the highlight of the EP, but one of the greatest songs released in 2012.
The Ghost EP is a brief glimpse of an artist in the middle of just one of the many reinventions in her sparkling, turbulent career. It’s a much more contemplative and vulnerable collection than her 2011 release, but no more or less indicative of Sky’s talent as an artist.
It’s also representative of her versatility: She’s played the part of the indie darling, lolita pop princess, rock ‘n’ roll glam goddess, country-tinged chanteuse all within a matter of a few short years–and she’s been able to carry off each role brilliantly. But as we’ve seen, Sky’s not one to be limited by labels, and it won’t be long until she’s found a new genre worth exploring.
The only question is whether we’ll ever get a full album out of her before she vanishes once again.
The Ghost EP was released on October 16. (iTunes)