Review of Jesca Hoop's album Hunting My Dress released through Last Laugh Records.
If you find yourself in a position where you need to reaffirm the old adage that truth is often stranger than fiction you could do a lot worse than to include the biography of Jesca Hoop among your research.
Born and raised in California under strict Mormon parentage Jesca's upbringing was not exactly conventional. Hoop had her own private theatre in the basement of their house, guests of which included tap dancing gay men, one of whom her mother temporarily converted, both to the Mormon church, and into a heterosexual relationship. After rejecting the church she has worked in the Arizona Mountains on a rehabilitation programme for kids, decided to launch a music career in her 30's and base herself, for the time being, in Manchester. Oh yes, one more thing, she was the live-in Nanny for Tom Waits children! There must be a book or two in there somewhere, let alone a few songs.
Jesca Hoop is an Alt/Folk/Pop artist of very high calibre indeed. Her mix of influences are vast, bewitching and beguiling in heady measures. Comparisons to Joanna Newsom, Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell may point to both her musical lineage and style of performance but fail to alert you to the true individuality being showcased within the album. Waits himself has been quoted as saying 'her music is like going swimming in a lake at night'. Evocations and imagery are clearly a craft bestowed on each.
Jesca has said that 'melodic integrity and narrative complexity so often get in the way of writing that is just fun'. On 'Four Dreams' she manages to combine all three for an aural jamboree touched with elements as diversely evident as both Musical Youth and MicaChu! Faintly whispering around, in a very beneficial manner, there is also a My Brightest Diamond quality to the song writing and arrangements. In fact there are highlights aplenty
throughout, including the Guy Garvey accompanied Murder Of Birds. Guy's voice perfectly complimenting Jesca, almost sat back and detached but wondrously finishing each of her words or sentences. Having toured with Elbow in 2008, Mr Garvey has become both a champion and fan of Jesca's musical talents, and who are we to argue with such pedigree? Lyrically there are a lot of gems and a turn of phrase both amusing and charming. The following few delightful examples are all taken from Murder Of Birds...
The shape of my breast and the shape of my kiss,
dement and coil with a slither and hiss,
I've got demons when I need 'ems.
To the spider we'll give a web,
to the cobra a lullaby,
in keeping the demons happy,
we'll make free for me to fly.
In the shape of home baked bread,
and a girl in a turned down bed.
The sound range on the album can veer between near industrial to purely organic, from beaten steel to twilight crickets. There is a very percussive (think Bat For Lashes) thread woven through each of the tracks on Hunting My Dress, giving it both coherence and making it a fascinatingly rewarding listen. This is not a collection of reworkings on a theme, each of the tracks is exquisitely crafted and individual, and in the most part, able to stand handsomely on their own, let alone as part of a body of work.
This is Jesca Hoops second full album, following on from 2007's Kismet. Here, on Hunting My Dress, she has pushed her creative boundaries to give us an album brim full of intriguing, creative and remarkable depth. She has a gorgeously emotive voice, packed with character and charisma. Now that she has so clearly found that voice, and is beginning to believe in herself, Jesca Hoops future looks to be very bright indeed. Hunting My Dress will not disappoint, it is an album waiting to be discovered and loved. Will you do both?