Memories Are Now (Sub Pop)
A lot of the time on Memories Are Now Jesca Hoop uses very little really to embellish her singing, which might be considered a brave call.
The album’s opener, Memories Are Now, seems to exist on a diet of low ride guitar, a splash of percussion and a fluctuating rhythm that keeps you off balance. The following track (and pretty much the pick of an album not short of good material), The Lost Sky has acoustic guitar picked out over intermittent bass, and Animal Kingdom Chaotic has a keyboard-sounding guitar and humming bass which get interrupted by a kind of marching band drum.
Even when Simon Says picks up pedal steel and some atmospheric echoes it still feels as if there’s a lot of space left for Hoop’s voice. And that is smart. Not because it’s one of those stunning instruments, big or swooping or crystalline or anything particularly noteworthy, but because Hoop knows how to make it bend, change shape, remould and come at you from unexpected angle.
On Cut Connection she moves from arch to commanding (in a song with a decent nod to Kate Bush’s The Dreaming, though without didge or a wobbling Australian paedo); in n the folk piece Songs Of Old, Hoop is unvarnished, deep and captivating; for The Lost Sky she affects a distinct enunciation and a touch of breathiness while things are plucked and throb around her.
What a lot of this shows is the benefit of being five albums into your career when you can understand that a unity of tone doesn’t have to mean a unity of approach or sound, and you have the skill to match this restlessness.
This confidence means she can place the pretty Pegasi, with its undernote of emotional weariness - “I won’t bend but I will break” - in a folk setting that is almost incongruously jaunty, and then pitch the harder lyrical pointedness of The Coming (she has a few issues with her Mormon upbringing you could say) in a sparse, electric guitar-only mood piece that strives for safe distance rather than darkness.
Lord knows where people will place Hoop, who may have to live with the PJ Harvey, Tuneyards, Bat For Lashes and Kate Bush comparison for a bit until we all come to accept this sound is just Jesca Hoop and she’s very interesting.