Nite Jewel's Rachel Gonzales hit upon an inspired creative streak with 2016's Liquid Cool album and Nite Funk EP that continues on Real High. Arriving less than a year after those releases, Gonzales' fourth full-length reunites her with longtime collaborators Dâm-Funk, Cole M.G.N., and Julia Holter, who help her make this some of her most engaging music yet. Nite Jewel has always had more personality and hooks than many of the artists making this kind of dreamy, R&B-indebted music, and Real High shows Gonzales still has a flair for filtering the sounds of the '80s and '90s through a dry ice haze on songs like "2 Good 2 Be True," where she takes the blasé side of freestyle to another level. This time, however, the songs are more intricate and more substantive than before. The lilting melody of the title track's quiet storm balladry and the synth counterpoint on "I Don't Know" give listeners a little more to grab onto, musically speaking, than some of Gonzales' previous work. Similarly, she balances pop songs and mood pieces ably on Real High; the sultry "Had to Let Me Go" reflects how her vocals have evolved along with her songwriting and production skills, and this level of polish makes songs like "The Answer" even more transporting. Meanwhile, Gonzales proves that the more delicate side of her music is still powerful, with the gauzy "Part of Me" and Droop-E duet "R We Talking Long" bringing the album to a gentle close. An artful mix of focus and atmosphere, Real High may be Nite Jewel's finest moment to date.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares