There’s an unsettling and uncanny directness to Jane Inc’s Number One, the full-length debut of Toronto musician Carlyn Bezic. For one thing, it’s a debut album called “Number One.” For another, it opens with “Gem,” a six-minute personal statement and absorbing descent into dark disco digitalism — depths the remainder of the record will spend mining. In the mylar-lined video for the song, Bezic haphazardly cycles through possible personae under her phone’s mirrored gaze: suited #girlboss, blue collar caricature, suburban mom with hair curlers, wannabe influencer in Adidas track pants and tiny glasses. “Honey I know that modern life is a drag/ But you can choose a you that never feels bad,” she promises herself beneath layers of sticky lip gloss and clumpy mascara. Internet-ified solipsism permeates everything; Jane Inc is ultimately performing selfhood for herself, and she simultaneously delineates and does away with the boundary between personhood and persona: “You’re the artist and I’m your greatest piece.”
It can border on grotesque. Number One’s sense of glamour is akin, perhaps, to artist Marilyn Minter’s close-ups of bejeweled stilettos on dirt-caked and mud-splattered feet. It’s maximalist and unwieldy; Bezic spends a not-insignificant amount of the album’s 30 minutes doing everything at once, firing off bizarre sounds and taking melodic detours across four lanes of synth-scuzz traffic. On “Steel,” she braids punchy neo-psych guitarwork into an anxiety-inducing “Work hard all day/ Work hard no play” chant. When she comes up for air on the sparser “Faceless, Bodiless,” she defers to Jane Fonda, sampling a line from the 1971 crime thriller Klute in which Fonda plays a call girl caught up in a missing persons case: “What I would really like to do is be faceless and bodiless and be left alone.” In other words, if you can’t perfect the performance, you can always disappear completely.
As Jane Inc, Bezic flirts with anonymity through obfuscation rather than absence. Piles of synths regularly smudge the finer contours of her voice. Nevertheless Bezic seems to have a complicated relationship with her own disappearance. “My hands are filled with dirt/ I’m clawing at the earth,” she sings in “Dirt and the Earth,” the synth strain reminiscent of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s darker ventures. Yet on album finale (and standout) “Obliterated,” she cries out to God from beneath the “speeding wave of information” and its attendant pop flourish. Jane Inc is everywhere and nowhere, and Number One, self-contained in its self-construction, stands alone—a monolith worthy of its name.