Release Date: May 13, 2016
Record label: Hyperdub
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
The zest Jessy Lanza exhibited as the vocalist on "Calling Card" (2015), a note-perfect freestyle throwback produced by Morgan Geist as the Galleria, carries into the singer, songwriter, and producer's second Hyperdub album. Her first one, the relatively softly lit and slowly paced Pull My Hair Back, had only slight flashes of frisky energy. One listen to the more pop Oh No makes her initial tentativeness behind the mike, however effective, seem all the more apparent.
Since appearing out of seeming thin air in 2013 with her Hyperdub-released debut album, Pull My Hair Back, Hamilton, Ontario singer-producer Jessy Lanza has built an impressive reputation. In the last three years, she's added a Polaris Music Prize shortlist nomination, a guest appearance on Caribou's Our Love and 12-inches with Morgan Geist's the Galleria and DJ Spinn and Taso to her portfolio. Time moves fast for Lanza, though; her sophomore album, Oh No, hardly feels like it's taken three years to arrive.The album's title, Oh No, reportedly arose from the feelings of anxiety Lanza has experienced since her career took off, but that's hardly discernible here.
Jessy Lanza is a modern r’n’b artist of a different kind – at least when it comes to the ephemeral, ultimately inconsequential business. No lavishly expensive videos, no lascivious booty-grinding at awards ceremonies, no fashion lines or perfume ranges. If that makes this Canadian musical polymath ‘unconventional’ then give us more, please – because, with ‘Oh No’, she’s laid down strong evidence that she’s one of the best.Coming three years after her debut ‘Pull My Hair Back’, ‘Oh No’ doesn’t veer far from earlier record’s template – a mélange of stripped-back r’n’b and simple electronic pop – but it feels several shades brighter and boundlessly joyful.
Pop music has become the latest frontier for critically acclaimed indie acts to conquer. With poptimism being quite real, critics look for the next mass-consumed product to laud. But there’s something to be said for sticking with an unique artist who’s simply looking to transition to the pop realm. So when Jessy Lanza, she of the alt-R&B triumph Pull My Hair Back, looked towards pop music’s endless confidence, the hopes were certainly high for the outcome.
When Canada’s Jessy Lanza debuted with 2013’s Pull My Hair Back, she was pigeonholed as one of the “future R&B” artists mixing up 90s sounds with new electronics. Understandably, she and co-producer/partner Jeremy Greenspan have made a run for it on second album Oh No and a wider – and weirder – range of influences, from Yellow Magic Orchestra and J-pop to Chicago footwork and New Orleans bounce, shine through their wonky pop prism. Lanza’s smoky sensuality is still there on slow jams such as Begins, Could Be You and I Talk BB, which recalls one of Prince’s syrupiest piano moments.
Soft beneath the threshold of perceptibility, I am bigger than a body. This is an affirmation I repeat daily until I convince myself with certainty of its truth. My features are dull, of this I am aware; yet still I swell with hope at the thought of my potential, at the limitless possibility in knowing that all these little stupid things like working in a Times Square Applebee’s or walking dogs for three and a half years will finally pay off, finally filing neatly into fodder for the most dazzling bio you’ve ever seen.
Through a creative partnership with Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys, the Hamilton, Ontario-based Jessy Lanza quietly made a name for herself in 2013 by signing to U.K. tastemaker label Hyperdub and releasing the beguiling Pull My Hair Back. Accompanied by the sort of minimalist IDM/R&B hybrid that Greenspan has become known for with his own outfit, Lanza made the sound all her own by evoking Mariah Carey and Aaliyah through a scope that also keeps listeners at an arm’s length.
In the last year, in and around Hamilton, Ontario, billboards have been posted around roads warning residents about the danger of the carcinogenic element radon in their homes. The billboard showed a hellish crack in the ground oozing a toxic green light. Jessy Lanza started seeing these advertisements right around the time she moved into her co-producer Jeremy Greenspan’s (of Junior Boys) home to write her sophomore album Oh No.
There's a weight of expectation around Jessy Lanza's second album, Oh No. In 2013, her debut record, Pull My Hair Back, emerged with a unique, fully formed pop sound. It combined the rave memories of her youth, the accomplished chords and compositional dexterity picked up in her jazz studies, and whip-smart production bolstered by co-producer Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys.
Following the lashings of online acclaim and underground love engendered by her debut album Pull My Hair Back, Jessy Lanza seems poised for a measure of crossover fame with her follow-up Oh No. With Junior Boys' Jeremy Greenspan on co-production duty once more we expect and receive the kind of smooth soul R&B combined with rapid-fire beats and insistent melodies that typified that debut. Lead track "VV Violence" seems to deal with consent issues and/or the struggle to be heard - "I say it to your face but it doesn't mean a thing - NO!" is the opening line that sets the tone.
Pull My Hair Back, the 2013 debut from Canadian vocalist/electronic musician Jessy Lanza, saw her quickly elevated to a position that made her presence on Hyperdub feel a natural and comfortable fit. The stand-out track on that album was arguably 5785021, a good example of the pop-within-post-dubstep parameters that flowed through the album. Second album Oh No moves outside of this framework, demonstrating a boldness and self-belief to further strike out on her own path.
Hamilton, Ontario’s Jessy Lanza seems poised for something big. Assisted by fellow Ontarian Jeremy Greenspan of The Junior Boys, Lanza has crafted and produced a short, ten-song album full to bursting with pop melodies and experimental, electronic flourishes. Whether pop stardom is in the books or not, Lanza’s latest release of atypical pop is a largely compelling and fun listen.
Jessy Lanza’s remarkable 2013 album Pull My Hair Back debuted a strange and thrilling sound nestled between afterhours and peak time, a sort of post-pubstep, blossoming intermittently into beauty. While that album saw the Canadian singer-writer’s voice float, untethered, from the pin-sharp production, her follow-up seems brasher, more memorable yet less substantial, lacking the eeriness that made her last work so compelling. Melodramatic Moroder power ballad I Talk BB, the twitching Vivica and a joyous title track build on her early promise, but too often Lanza’s free-form 80s pop can’t quite yoke its desire to challenge to an ability to entertain.
Jessy Lanza’s debut album ‘Pull My Hair Back’ would be best described as electro R&B; strong, soulful vocals taking up a lot of the foreground, riding over sharp, Grimes-esque synths. Instrumentation takes the lead role in its follow-up, ‘Oh No’, with the Canadian’s vocal style switching dramatically. The album is a much heavier listen than ‘Pull My Hair Back’ - where synth lines rode calm over prominent vocal lines on her debut, here they swerve and crash through significantly poppier numbers.
“I’m never gonna be a pop star,” Jessy Lanza said in an interview with Mixmag last month. Much like fellow Canadian non-pop-star Grimes, the pop-inclined Hamilton musician prefers to stay clear of the term and the superfluous imagery it evokes: Beyoncé’s legs, Justin Bieber’s abs, Madonna’s arms, George Michael’s goatee, Michael Jackson’s noses. In a way, her second album is its own kind of pop Frankenstein in that it distills influences such as South African electro, Chicago footwork and 80s Japanese pop into catchy, accessible and pristinely mixed songs.
The songs themselves are a celestial mix – from the jittering, glitchy, house-inflected bangerette ‘It Means I Love You’ and the squelchy disco soul of ‘Never Enough’, to the more meditative ‘Vivica’ and slow-burning ‘Begins’. Album opener ‘New Ogi’ pulses with prettiness, setting the shimmering tone for the eight songs that follow. Single ‘VV Violence’ takes the giddy bounce of London cyber-pop label PC Music and turns it into something far less annoying, while ‘I Talk BB’ starts out like the Bladerunner theme but morphs into a slinky soundtrack for seduction.Despite the wide range of moods, each track is given its own breathing space.
The institution of pop music is in a strange place right now. By its very definition the genre seeks populist appeal, and so it's perhaps no surprise that the simmering underbelly of social decay slowly eroding away millennial culture has twisted pop over the last decade, whisking it from a love-and-fun obsessed playground into a darkened club boasting cheap deals on vodka Red Bulls. For all the merits of modern pop’s ability to assimilate musical invention, and to blaze new trails in production, the soul is slowly vanishing; often reducing beats and hooks to tools for exploring little beyond weekend-worship and bacchanal escapism.
by Justin Pansacola Jessy Lanza has no shortage of peers in the ever-expanding hazy area between experimental R&B, pop, and electronic music, so the distinguishing factors take on greater size. In Lanza’s case, it’s how little there is. Her music has depth and the ideas come off strong, but Oh No frequently adheres to a “less is more” philosophy.