Hamilton Ontario native Jessy Lanza makes crisp electro-R&B in collaboration with her partner and producer Jeremy Greenspan. If that name sounds familiar its because he, along with Matt Didemus, make up the acclaimed Canadian electro-pop duo Junior Boys.
Lanza’s second full-length release “Oh No” is ripe with the minimalist clear production we have come to expect out of Greenspan. It also successfully demonstrates Lanza’s growing confidence in her own abilities as a singer and writer. Its not a radical departure, but is a definite coming of age in which Lanza seems much more comfortable to let her considerable talents take the centre stage. While “Pull My Hair…” opted to bury her vocals in the mix, or manipulate them all together, “Oh No” makes use of her sweet childlike falsetto more clearly, displaying not only wonderful R&B chops but a playful innocence that belies the music itself – music which ultimately comes across as very refined, as if it knows exactly what its doing.
That the music sounds this confident and sure of itself is no coincidence. Lanza is a school-trained pianist and Greenspan’s Junior Boys have been lauded by bloggers and pundits since their debut in 2004. There are obvious elements of R&B, 80’s inspired funk, and early Madonna. Some tracks – like the slow burning eerily Prince-esque ‘I Talk BB’ feel sexy but never lascivious, using restraint to great effect and differentiating Lanza from other flashier modernist R&B acts, who at times run the risk of inauthenticity. More uptempo numbers like the catchy VV Violence or Never Enough wouldn’t be out of place on any modern club’s dance floor and are evidence that not only can Lanza clearly write a hook – but she is much more willing to explore her pop sensibility on this latest release.
It took me about one and a half listens before deciding that I really liked this album. It’s tasteful and poppy without being overblown. It’s catchy but emotive, and the production is lush and detailed. However with lyrics like “everyone says you like it, but is it good enough for you?” and “baby I just wanna impress you” there are hints of the insecurity that was evident on Lanza’s first release. You knew then, that if she could shed some of those and let her obvious talents speak for themselves, she was certainly on to something. Thus “Oh No” seems like the sound of an artist gaining steam rather than an outright breakthrough. It feels like the work of someone who has soaked in the relatively surprising success of the last three years since “Pull My Hair Back” and taken it to heart – refining her craft and breaking out of her self. “Oh No” is a good listen, to be sure, but perhaps the best part of it is that it feels like the lead up to something REALLY good. If this is indeed the ‘album before the album’ that blows Jessy Lanza to the forefront of female indie-pop then we would be wise to follow her closely in the coming years.
Review by Matthew Poole