Jessy Lanza’s Oh No
by Justin Pansacola
Jessy Lanza has no shortage of peers in the ever-expanding hazy area between experimental R&B, pop, and electronic music, so the distinguishing factors take on greater size. In Lanza’s case, it’s how little there is. Her music has depth and the ideas come off strong, but Oh No frequently adheres to a “less is more” philosophy. A snare loop here, some funky keys there, and Lanza’s voice tying it all down is, sometimes, all a song incorporates. It’s the opposite of the wall of sound technique—more like a thin silk curtain of sound. Nothing gets drowned out and there is no sound you will miss. It’s all compact and fits in the same spotlight.
To describe music as sparse usually implies that it’s dark, quiet or melancholy. While Oh No may have sparse songs, there are rarely moments of silence or extended low energy moments. The best songs are, in fact, peppy and paced to relentless dance rhythms. “Never Enough” starts out with the most basic Casio keyboard beat and drops in a breathless hook with so much funk on so little work. “It Means I Love You” has Lanza’s quirkiest singing, but it’s all one drawn out path that leads to you losing your mind by song’s end. Lanza and her collaborator, Jeremy Greenspan, have enough foresight to not stamp every song with that playfulness so that diminishing returns are never a problem.
They have production chops to trot out, too. “Going Somewhere” stands out: a choppy, pulsating beat is the song’s constant through line, but it is adorned by accents like skittering drum fills and flattened clap samples. They’re mixed in half a dozen different layers, creating a depth of sound you can really feel as the song morphs, and it starts to feel like something new is popping off all the time. If there is such a thing as a full-ear work out, it’s a song like this with headphones.
Songs on Oh No never outright fail, but they don’t all inspire the same level of intrigue and enthusiasm. There are moments when Lanza sings entirely in falsetto over an ambient afterglow where you will get FKA Twigs deja vu. There are moments when it’s hard to tell if a song is patiently building itself or if it’s just coasting to make the four minute mark. So perhaps it takes a little work and a little shrugging off. It’s still not much to ask for what you get in return. B
White Lung’s Paradise
by Marshall Gu
Emerging from the acclaim of 2014’s Deep Fantasy and annoyed at the constant comparisons to other, older bands, White Lung enlist producer Lars Stalfors for a more modern sound on their newest album Paradise, and up the ambition by releasing their longest record yet—10 songs at 28 minutes. While this sort of economic chords and vocal/guitar/bass/drum hardcore punk rock record is easy to come by, what’s rarer is when its aggression—not necessarily just in the vocals and lyrics—comes from someplace genuine; the lyrics of “Hungry” are generic enough that it can apply to any sort of hunger, but Mish Barber-Way has dealt with body image issues in the past, which contextualizes the song into something more poignant. That, and there’s something hooking you in just about every song here: the guitars throughout often shimmer like synths or cut like razors, sometimes simultaneously. Then there’s stuff like the flaying bass throughout “Narcoleptic” (something the album could’ve used more of); the title’s command throughout “Kiss Me When I Bleed” (whose sheer coolness in the song’s last line reminds me of Kim Gordon; a compliment, even if the band doesn’t want to be compared to anyone else anymore); the choruses of “Hungry”; just about every line in “Below,” where they slow down a little without lightening up on the power; the guitars underneath the choruses and relentless drumming of the title track. Not every song’s a winner: “Sister” slows down into a vaguely psychedelic section that drags on for a bit too long, not to mention that the lyrics in the song are grotesque (which might’ve been the point, given the subject matter of singing through the eyes of Karla Homolka). Elsewhere, Mish Way can’t help herself from being a little negative on the album’s most romantic song, ending the title track’s “run away with me” theme with a self-deprecating “This is all I want / So desolate.” B PLUS