Jesca Hoop’s new album is out since roughly a month now and don’t think that I didn’t listen to that record already a hundred times. I did. But listening and writing are always so different, because one involves manual labor and the other doesn’t.
Ok, so this album is lovely. I love it. It starts with a bang considering that her last album was with Sam Beam from Iron & Wine and was basically a long romantic album and then “Memories are now” starts and it’s like: you better get out of my life and don’t f*** around here. Ok, lyrically, Jesca is a lot less profane than I am. As already written, the song is an amazing opener because it’s so stripped down to her voice and the beat and the lyrical force that Jesca is (I always go on and on about how amazing Guy Garvey’s songwriting is but especially with this album I feel like, I should start going on and on about Jesca Hoop’s songwriting).
The whole album is powerful and takes a critical look at the here and now. In “Animal Kingdom Chaotic”, Jesca muses how much control we have when everything is framed by technology that leads us to certain actions (sometimes or mostly unknowingly). “Simon Says” tackles how many or few opinions we actually build ourselves and how many are formed by whatever the media get into our heads (was my love for “Lemonade” just a lie?). And the powerful “The Coming” talks about – quite autobiographically, I think – the breakup with religion. It’s a tender song. If you know David Bazan, a former band member of Christian band Pedro the Lion, who turned into an atheist and created nearly violently angry and beautiful songs about this transformation, you can see or rather hear how differently both artists tackle the loss of religion.
As an atheist who never was religious, these glimpses into the process of believer into non-believer are quite precious. The empathy with which Jesca gives reasons why she chose to lose the faith is commendable and I love how she explains how difficult it is because you leave not only your worldview behind but also a certain sense of community that can be harder for some to leave than the faith itself.
Stylistically, the whole album is typical Hoop: colorful, wonderfully balanced and so clear and strong that no song gets lost in the tracklisting. It’s an art to find the right songs in the right order, so the whole album feels fresh and exciting all the way through. Songs like “Cut Connection” won’t leave me for days, this woman is so good at writing captivating hooks. The anachronistic melodies Jesca incorporates give a nice contrast to her lyrics that are quite of this time (Zeitgeist, y’all). Oh, and despite all these darker themes, the album never feels depressing, far from it. I sometimes think that Jesca loves her songs too much to make them dour and grey and therefore always adds little details to keep them lighter than they might be in the hands of another artist. The only exception, a song that breaks my heart and works even better with the superbly acted music video, is “The Lost Sky” with a line that is as tender as it is hurting:
And when we said the words ‘I love you’
I said them ’cause they are true
Why would you say those words to me
If you could not follow through?
Go wash your mouth out, child
I also want to add that there’s hardly anyone out there who works so well with background voices. Just the right amount, a sudden group hug and then it’s gone (“Songs of Old” is beautiful that way).
I don’t know what it is about the first quarter of the year, but some of my most favourite albums of not only the year but since then in general have been released during Winter come Spring. And I am quite sure that this is no exception.