Release Date: Sep 17, 2013
Record label: Hyperdub
Genre(s): Electronic, Downtempo, Indie Electronic, Alternative R&B
The story behind Jessy Lanza's debut album, Pull My Hair Back, verges on a musical kismet. The album was co-produced by Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys, and anyone familiar with that duo will immediately see why he was the ideal candidate for Lanza's immersive, often oblique brand of electronic pop. The two have known each other for years, and first worked together when Greenspan enlisted Lanza for backing vocals on 2011's It's All True.
Jessy Lanza‘s excellent debut album is another expansive move from the enterprising, fast-evolving Hyperdub label. After releases from the likes of Laurel Halo (USA), Steve ‘Kode9’ Goodman has been looking increasingly further afield to continue his mission of relentless innovation. Jessy Lanza hails from Ontario and has worked here with producer Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys fame.
Connected through mutual acquaintances, Jessy Lanza was sought by Jeremy Greenspan to contribute background vocals for Junior Boys' It's All True. Greenspan reciprocated by helping Lanza, a music teacher who studied jazz performance and piano, get her head around a bank of synthesizers and drum machines inherited from her father. The pair's time together developed into a recording collaboration that resulted in Pull My Hair Back, Lanza's Hyperdub debut.
Songs or sonics? The fabulous first full-length from the Canadian singer/producer Jessy Lanza – made with Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys – offers both. Greenspan gives Lanza's breathy, high-register voice a sparse but comfortable bed: skeletal rhythm tracks, synth lines that sit behind the voice instead of drowning it, basslines that hold the songs in place, rarely doing anything more. Lanza in turn offers melodies from 80s and 90s pop R&B, with hooks that hold.
If an artists' music video were indicative of one's listening experience, "Kathy Lee" would certainly be representative of Hamilton, ON electro R&B artist Jessy Lanza's Pull My Hair Back. The clip showcases Steeltown hero Jed the Dancing Guy clumsily two-stepping across the streets of Hamilton for no rhyme or reason. Listening to the album's mix of '90s R&B and house evokes a similar feeling of confusion, as well as enjoyment.
Situated on the southwestern corner of Lake Ontario, the midsize industrial city of Hamilton, Ontario, has a grittiness that stands in stark contrast to the diverse cosmopolitanism of its northern neighbor, Toronto. While Hamilton may lack the cultural cachet of Canada's largest city, Steeltown served as a creative incubator for singer Jessy Lanza: she fell into a collaborative role with a local acquaintance, Junior Boys member Jeremy Greenspan, that led to studio sessions and a deal with the UK electronic label Hyperdub. The result of Lanza and Greenspan's work together is Pull My Hair Back, Lanza's debut collection of glacial electro-R&B.
If you were so inclined, you could treat ‘Pull My Hair Back’ as a side-project of genteel Canadian dance act Junior Boys: Jeremy Greenspan from that duo is responsible for much of the production of these nine songs. Of course, you’d be doing considerable disservice to Jessy Lanza, who brings her wistful, curiously distant vocals and encyclopedic knowledge of R&B to the party. The results elude easy categorisation, toying with the soft-focus synths and squealy ’80s funk chords that Greenspan has put to such good use in the past, but leaning towards minimal house pulsing and, on ‘5785021’, the tricksy drums of Chicago footwork.
“Somebody gotta survive,” August Alsina says in one of the spoken interludes on his debut major label EP, “Downtown: Life Under the Gun” (Radio Killa/Def Jam). He’s just finished tearfully telling the story of how he learned about the murder of his brother, after singing a song, “Don’t Forget About Me,” about broken families and broken dreams. Mr.
Coloured perfectly for Hyperdub’s catalogue of recent years, Jessy Lanza’s debut album Pull My Hair Back is being discussed as a modern r ‘n’ b record, and there is indeed half a modern r’n’b album here in all kinds of stylistic execution. However, the other half of the album is pure song writing of the ’82-’86 boogie era. Lanza’s interview with The Quietus gives a fascinating insight into her influences, ranging from Def Wave and Heatmakerz to SWV and Melba Moore (a legend who even drops in to compliment/spam her in the comments).