Reviews

Jessy Lanza
All The Time

(Hyperdub)

7/10

Jessy Lanza makes music with a deceptive lightness. There’s heartbreak and self-doubt bubbling under the surface on All The Time, but it’s masked by agile, danceable beats, and playful, airy production. “Anger is a familiar and safe feeling for me”, she says. “The album became a conversation with myself about why that is.” Its lead single ‘Lick in Heaven’ explores her anger at how women are manipulated by cultural pressures. When she’s in it, anger becomes uncontrollable, as though she’s slipping away from reality. 

You might not get that from a cursory listen, mostly because the track is so much fun. Lanza’s camp, wispy vocal glides over cartoonish synth bloops and staccato drum machines. It’d be easy to confuse the chorus for a giddy celebration of its own catchiness (“Once I’m spinning, I can’t stop spinning”). A few more listens make the darker edges more obvious. 

This disarming skill as a writer is also evident in Lanza’s construction of her beats. What first seem to be minimalist bangers built on rudimentary hi-hats and kicks reveal amazing precision in when new elements are triggered and how the space of the mix is used. These are sharp pop songs from the mind of a killer DJ, after all. This will be nothing new for fans: Lanza’s early work took its influence from New Orleans bounce and Chicago footwork as much as R&B and pop. 

All The Time is a subtle evolution rather than a reinvention. Despite drifting into heady experiments with modular equipment, the album is the most accessible she’s made so far. She’s using a left-field sonic palette – like the shredded samples on ‘Face’ and the gurgling bass of ‘Badly’ – to craft songs with no filler.

When the tempo slows from the midway point, Lanza allows her songs to float more freely. At times, it clouds the emotional appeal too much, like on ‘Alexander’, where dissonant vocal effects threaten to obscure the core melody. ‘Baby Love’ is the best of these mellower tracks, her vocals clear and present. Lanza doesn’t have the voice of a diva, but it’s a nice change of pace, hearing her make these powerful declarations to the listener. 

But these are small criticisms when there’s so much to like on All The Time. On the back end, ‘Over and Over’ is as catchy and layered anything Jessy Lanza has written, and the closing title track captivates without any drums, emphasising the wonderful weightless quality of her work, and the emotionally-adrift nature of her lyrics. It’s a deeply rewarding listen, and a step forward from an artist who was already doing so much with a whisper.

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