“I’m a broken record/you have heard this before,” goes the first line of “This Story,” the opening track of One Second Of Love, Ramona Gonzalez’s second album as Nite Jewel. It’s a line that carries a lot of weight and several meanings within the album as a whole. Sure, there’s the easy angle of interpreting the line as commentary on One Second Of Love‘s synths and aesthetics that retro-lean so far back that their heads are touching the ground, but the line speaks equally of Gonzalez’s pastiche songwriting technique, which pulls cues from the indie world just as much as it does from mainstream pop, R&B, and funk. Familiar sounds jump out constantly, causing the listener to embark on a musical inventory of sorts to try and put a finger on where they heard it originally, whether it came from a song blaring from the radio or the clanging of an experimental artist. So yeah, “you have heard this before,” goes the line, and the cleverness with which Gonzalez assembles these elements that we’ve heard before results in an album that is embracing with its familiarity and intruiging with its myriad of detours.
Above all, One Second Of Love is a triumph of atmospherics and arrangements. Whether it’s a intensely varied drum pattern inserted into a song that has previously employed a single beat, the squelch of reverb pinned to the end of of a snare hit, or a spiderweb-thin guitar lead following Gonzalez’s vocals, the small details really bring this one to life. There’s a great moment on aforementioned opener “This Story” where Gonzalez drops a line describing a situation, and then sits out for about two to three beats, allowing her lyrics to set in before moving on to the next one. The album’s title track is a straightforward electro pop two-stepper accentuated by synths that seem constantly on the verge of veering out of tune, offering a sense of unease to the proceedings. “She’s Always Watching You” rides an easy guitar skank while the beat gets peppered by multi-tracked Gonzalezes and frantic, Timberland-esque percussion flutters.
Gonzalez is just as effective when the drama of her vocals and tricky arrangements are dialed down, as the slinky, guitar accented “In The Dark” proves, containing a central hook that is somehow mournful and hopeful at the same time. The unease of the title track is re-visited to great effect on “No I Don’t,” which conducts itself like a queasy The-Dream track, seismic bass drops and all.
Nostalgia has been the focus of countless articles in the world of music journalism over the years, and recently reached a fever pitch in discussions surrounding bands like Cloud Nothings, Yuck, and anything that could remotely be tagged “’90s.” Yet the nostalgia that Nite Jewel taps into on One Second Of Love isn’t one that can be measured by time periods, instead coming off more as a grand celebration of that moment, whenever it was in one’s life, where they first heard something that truly grabbed them. The moment when an earworm first buried itself deep, leaving the listener humming a hook or verse all day. It’s all of those moments, combined with sounds and lessons learned over the rest of Gonzalez’s life, and in that way, it’s an album purely of the now.