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. The cover for Oh No sees Lanza surrounded by plants (something she actually put in place for the recording of the album) and without wanting to draw too literal an analogy Oh No does generally benefit from a lighter, airier tone when compared to her debut. It’s undoubtedly pop music but, at the same time, it’s also more than that.
Co-produced by Jeremy Greenspan from Junior Boys it possesses a similar fresh, vivacious feel to their latest album, Big Black Coat. Synth figurations form on VV Violence and bubble away on Never Enough, both tracks noticeable for their bright summery light, crisp concise beats and deft turns. I Talk BB is indicative of the youthful R&B quality that fizzes through the album, and with her broader vocal range Lanza strikes a deeper, more emotive note. Her vocals work less well on It Means I Love You however, sounding a touch over-processed.
There may be the occasional personal lyric directed to people from her past but on the whole it seems a more well-balanced and settled album, something backed up by her recent comments about music being her way of escaping the anxieties and stress of everyday life.
The album really hits full stride in the last three tracks. Vivica is the sparkling high point of the album, succeeding largely due to the simple fact of it being by far the best song on Oh No in terms of structure, hooks, and overall sound. The off-beat synths and beats of the title track add a further zestful feel before the svelte, enveloping Begins closes the album. It is truly music to get lost in and even possesses an unexpected ethereal early 4AD feel in places.
It may be true that Oh No doesn’t quite match the mystery or depth of her debut – it’s all very transparent and above the surface in comparison – but it offers enough proof that the overt, more soulful qualities demonstrated on this album should serve her well for some time yet.