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Jessy Lanza didn’t need to live in Los Angeles to build her career as one of the best electronic pop artists of the last decade. The singer lived in Hamilton, Ontario when she released her first two albums, Pull My Hair Back and Oh No. These records burn with desire thanks to Lanza’s teasing vocals and her preference for the bass-heavy sounds of dubstep, synth-pop, and footwork. Standout songs “5785021” and “It Means I Love You” dimmed down the lights and projected Lanza as a singular voice in electronic music.
The singer left Canada at the beginning of the pandemic to live with her husband’s family in the Bay Area. Later that year, she released her third full-length, the warmer and poppier All The Time. Though it was recorded before the pandemic, the album fits perfectly with the cool breeze and intense sunsets of the California coast. Or as the “Lick in Heaven” video depicts, an all-too-chipper TV morning show. Hiding out and with time on her hands, she began writing songs for other artists (she’s contractually obligated not to name names). That music would lay the foundation of her fourth full-length, Love Hallucination, out July 28 on Hyperdub.
Lanza, now a permanent U.S. resident, has exchanged the hills of northern California for those of Los Angeles. “It’s a pretty magical place,” she says. The glitz and glamor has rubbed off on Lanza, and she admits the city has given her the confidence and support she couldn’t get back home. The city’s music industry can be surreal and self-obsessed, sure, but also inspiring and liberating. So on the cover for Love Hallucination, Lanza rises stoically over a palm tree from the basket of a cherry picker.
The album contains some of Lanza’s strongest vocal performances and dance-pop confections. Opener “Don’t Leave Me Now” is a tech-house banger featuring her signature falsetto vocals and pillowy synths. “Midnight Ontario” has Lanza delivering a soulful performance over a jittery two-step beat (co-produced by fellow Canadian Jacques Greene). “Limbo” is synthpop at its finest, with an effervescent hook and shimmering production (also a collaboration, with German producer Tensnake). In visuals for the song directed by her husband Winston Case, a skinny, bondage-clad cowboy swings around in what is either an exercise machine or sex contraption. Lanza has presented ideas like this before, peeking out from behind the curtains; on Love Hallucination, she stands proudly next to them.
Between the rush of bounding pop songs, there are plenty of moments to exhale on Love Hallucination. Lanza strips down the arrangements for “Drive” and “I Hate Myself,” sings both songs’ titles with satisfaction. “Marathon,” the penultimate track, is also one of the album’s best, benefitting from Lanza’s suggestive lyrics and instrumental textures co-produced with Paul White, the man behind many of the cacophonous beats in Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition. “Double Time,” like Lanza’s other album closers, is slow and bittersweet, making it hard to say goodbye to Lanza’s world of ecstasy.
In our interview, Lanza tells me about the instrument that reignited her love of performing, seeing one of her idols in concert for the first time, and new tracks she’s playing at home and in the club. Read our condensed conversation – edited by the good folks at Passion of the Weiss – below.