Jessy Lanza’s music carries an air of indelible, charged intimacy. The Ontario-born producer likes to lock into a yearning sweet spot by way of suggestive lyrics delivered in a whispering falsetto and snaking, rhythmic bass that pumps like blood. Her light touch gained sinewy confidence on 2020’s playful All the Time, traipsing between vulnerable confessions and whimsical asides over an energetic, shapeshifting backdrop. On her fourth album, Love Hallucination, Lanza leans into her vision of low-lit club-pop, R&B, and footwork with even greater assurance, finding value in both unbridled lust and complicated heartbreak against a collage of steely, hypnotic electro-pop.
As with All the Time, Love Hallucination marks another period of change in Lanza’s itinerant life. Following a move from New York to San Francisco, she’s now settled in Los Angeles, a locale that informs the new album’s breezy, limber mood. She brings an observant lens to heady desire, pairing her findings with straightforward, instantly appealing pop hooks. “I’m not good at saying no,” she admits on the upbeat standout “Limbo,” a co-production with German DJ Tensnake that channels the rush of an irresistible fling into an elastic bassline and sugary backing vocals. The chorus exemplifies Lanza’s vivid, hopscotch phrasing, spelling out the title in a cheerleader chant that becomes a wistful plea by the time she elongates that final, breathy “oh.” “Midnight Ontario,” an R&B ballad featuring co-production by Jacques Greene, circles a two-step beat until its full-screen, hypnagogic chorus. It bears out the album’s success in joining Lanza’s laid-back style with fellow producers eager to bend club influences to fit her featherlight presence.
Janet Jackson has long been one of Lanza’s north stars, but the comparison is especially salient across Love Hallucination. She draws on the superstar’s frisky sensuality more than ever on “Marathon,” a spangled, finger-snapping standout originally written as a demo for another artist. Lanza transforms it into something buoyant and outwardly lustful; the sultry workout peaks with an ecstatic, surprising sax solo she played herself. (“Show me you can run it like a marathon,” sung in a sweet melody, ranks among Lanza’s most memorable refrains.) On the dreamy “Casino Niagara,” she channels Jackson over a delayed beat and nodding bass that keep uneven pace behind lyrics about a fraught relationship. “When you’re close it makes me feel like/I just wanna burn it down,” she murmurs.
Across Love Hallucination, uncertainty and self-doubt play against sneaky self-confidence. Opener “Don’t Leave Me Now,” inspired by Lanza’s experience of nearly being struck by a car in L.A., rattles at a gently accelerating pace as Lanza intones her anxieties, never settling long before the beat switches. She reaches a true stride on “Don’t Cry on My Pillow,” a kiss-off haloed by chirping background vocals. “Don’t call my mom/… Don’t play my Rhodes,” she seethes to an ex, capping a salty list of “don’ts” with a revelation of strength: “Don’t tell me I’m too soft on myself or anyone.” Quiet humor and personal resilience are common threads, even in the album’s more oblique moments; the billowy synth ballad “I Hate Myself” cribs a self-deprecating lyric from a Prefab Sprout song (“I hate myself/You’re so cool”) and twists it into a bittersweet, chilled-out mantra. It’s a respite with irreverent flair and subtle production wrinkles, like when she drops the occasional filtered cough into the mix.
Constantly varied yet consistent to her core sound, Love Hallucination is Lanza’s most fleshed-out album to date. She simply sounds more comfortable luxuriating in it all. On closer “Double Time,” the drums land in aqueous slow motion, submerged in reverb that insulates Lanza’s delayed vocals. “Still I want you/Double time,” she sings, winking to the lazy tempo, as if to say, Just because it goes by fast, doesn’t mean it can’t feel slow. Like the rest of Love Hallucination’s eclectic, bolder approach, it’s a slight pivot that rewards in full.
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