Jessy Lanza: Pull My Hair Back

On her excellent debut album Pull My Hair Back, Jessy Lanza humanizes her synthetic backdrops with an alluringly soulful vocal delivery. Throughout the nine-song set, Lanza and co-writer and co-producer Jeremy Greenspan (of Junior Boys fame) strike a thoroughly satisfying balance between the naturalism of her singing and the mechanoid futurism of the instrumental backing.

Every song has something to recommend it, even if the element towering irresistibly over all others is her voice, which appeals equally whether delivered in falsetto or normal register modes. And if Lanza plays the seductress on her debut album, don't hold it against her: equipped with a voice so naturally beguiling, it would be hard for her to do otherwise. Instrumentally, the tracks are unapologetically synthetic in design, with synthesizers and and drum machines accounting for pretty much everything and nary an acoustic sound in sight.

Pull My Hair Back floats in on a gentle electro-synth chug with “Giddy,” all crystalline keyboard flutterings and delayed vocal effects, before “5785021” brings her music's neo-soulful essence into clear focus. It's easy indeed to be seduced by her cooing falsetto as she recites her phone number and trills “Call me,” just as it is during the unshackled vocal delivery she brings to the later title track. As alluring is “Kathy Lee,” a slinky slow jam that follows an intro of day-glo synth chords and fingersnaps with an ethereal vocal delivery that's as hushed as it is acrobatic. Strangely reminiscent of Daft Punk's “Get Lucky” (perhaps due in part to its ubiquity), “Keep Moving” alternates between shimmering episodes of raw disco-funk and effervescent house, while “Fuck Diamond” nudges the album onto the dance floor with a bumping house groove and off-beat claps. Nowhere does Lanza better counter the music's synthetic chill with humanity than during the transporting soul-ballad closer “Strange Emotion.”

Lanza, a keyboardist as well as vocalist, and Greenspan worked together prior to Pull My Hair Back, with Lanza having provided backing vocals on Junior Boys' 2011 release It's All True. But though Greenspan is inarguably the more experienced of the two, he in no way overshadows her: it's Lanza's synthetic soul that shines the most brightly. Yes, it's undoubtedly a big step from Lanza's Hamilton, Ontario hometown (the city captured in the video for “Kathy Lee”) to the Hyperdub planet, but it's a move she handles with aplomb.

November 2013