One of 2013’s hottest releases was Pull My Hair Back, the sultry synth pop exploits of Canadian pop starlet Jessy Lanza. Snappy R&B and clever song writing intertwined to create a record rightfully lauded by critics for its execution. Produced by Lanza herself as well as a certain Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys fame, Pull My Hair Back is undeniably the result of a match made in heaven. Lanza’s jazz background very much shows in her delivery; wistful, ghost-like and loosely fitting. It seldom followed the common synth pop formula of bombastic hooks and meaty chords and instead opting for a far more minimalist style. The two pieces fit perfectly and so it was interesting to see if Lanza and Greenspan could replicate the success with follow up release Oh No.
“New Ogi” is the first to appear, a shimmering synth intro rising into an atmospheric R&B beat accompanied by Lanza’s dreamlike vocals. It’s short and sweet but it sets the tone. There is nothing remarkable about the track as Lanza chooses to keep her cards close to her chest in the opening proceedings, instead offering just a glimpse of what is in store. Oddly though it’s a track that could not be any more different. “VV Violence” sounds like if Prince wrote a song for Crystal Castles. It’s edgy and at times it’s dangerous, yet still retains that silky charm that Lanza utilises so well.
The similarities between “Never Enough” and anything released by Madonna in the 1980’s are unavoidable; in fact you’d be convinced it was an unreleased B side if you listened to the track blind.
Both Oh No and its predecessor were released on UK based label Hyperdub. Interestingly the label prides itself on promoting grime and dubstep so you would not expect someone like Jessy Lanza to sit well among its other artists given the stark contrast in her chosen genre. Maybe it’s a sign of the times that the once recognizable boundaries between genres have become murkier in recent times. Sub-genres are popping up all the times, at times bordering on the ridiculous (Nintendocore anybody?) Maybe it boils down to artists wanting to extend their reach beyond their ‘sound’; experimentation is never a bad thing.
“I Talk BB” shows promise but struggles to find its way sometimes. The minimalism has always worked in Lanza’s favour, but I think here the track would have benefited from a little something extra. No such concerns on “Vivica,” a song so vibrant that you won’t be able to stop at just one listen. If you find Grimes too much to handle then “Vivica” would definitely be your alternative. It doesn’t try too hard and it times its hooks to perfection, as opposed to unleashing them all in one go.
The coup de grâce of Oh No is “It Means I Love You.” The octave heightening effects on Lanza’s voice shouldn’t work but it absolutely does here. The song breaks down into a frantic, off-kilter exchange between various drum machine effects, creating an untraceable pattern of loops that I can’t wait to see the cool kids try and dance to. Needless to say that this is a very solid track and it was rightfully chosen as the lead single for the record.
Fans of Pull My Hair Back will recognise many familiar elements in Oh No. music progression is natural for an artist only two albums into her career but it stays true to its core and provides welcome demonstrations of Lanza’s growing talents as a song writer and a vocalist.
Oh No is as good as if not better than Jessy Lanza’s debut which is no mean feat indeed.