All the Time is both a breezy bit of oddball dance-pop and a rich record that benefits from deeper listening.
While Hamilton, Ontario may not seem like the most fertile ground for cultivating an interest in dance music, the city is actually home to a rather robust club scene, one that Jessy Lanza got an early taste of thanks to her father’s PA rental company. Lanza makes pop music, in the broadest sense, but she has always drawn on techno, footwork, and other electronic club music in a manner distinct from most of her peers. All The Time, her third straight collaboration with Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan (another Hamilton native), is denser in its sonic decoupage than either of her previous records: in some moments her new record even bears a resemblance to more rhythmic forms of sound collage. Many of these songs feel almost mosaic in their construction, shards of sound — synthesized squeals, GameBoy-esque blips, abstracted vocal samples — assembled as wonky beats and stuffed into pop song structures. At one point “Lick In Heaven” nearly loses form, as the bass drops out and we’re left with modular synth flutters and soft, arhythmic drums, and then right as the song threatens to collapse, Lanza shifts back into gear and the dancing continues.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Lanza’s songwriting is its dissonance. She’s not necessarily one for harshness, but she plays discordant, sometimes atonal sounds against each other, building a sort of tension that one doesn’t often hear in pop music. “Badly” stands out in that regard, opening with synth pads that don’t match the key of Lanza’s vocals, and later incorporating a buzzing drone over those same pads, enhancing the relief that follows with the soft and airy chorus. There’s a fine line between an engaging tension and unpleasantness, but Lanza manages to toe it rather deftly, never letting things drift over into real turmoil. Her lyrics often reflect that subtly dissonant approach as well: “Like A Fire” at first seems desirous (“You know that I want your love / I don’t think I’ve had enough”), but we eventually realize that the refrain (“You burned me like fire”) is as bitter as it is lustful; the swirling chorus of “Lick In Heaven” (“Once I’m spinning / I can’t stop spinning”) speaks both to the liberation of losing oneself on the dance floor, as well as to the destructive compulsion of a spiraling rage. There is a subtle ambiguity to Lanza’s writing, sonically and lyrically, that stands in contrast to the sugary, hedonistic tendencies of many oddball pop acts. Where the likes of PC Music or 100 Gecs often balance their relentless hooks with noisy production, Lanza does the opposite, crafting odd earworms within a more subdued style. And, lest my descriptions mislead you, I should make clear that All The Time is, above all, a delightful dance record. It’s breezy and fun, and easy to get lost in, but the dark edge that Lanza brings rewards deeper listening as well.
Published as part of Pop Rocks | Q3 2020 Issue – Part 1.