Album of the Week: Jesca Hoop – Memories Are Now

It’s been a dull month for pop culture. We’re in the middle of award season. This isn’t the time for freshness (except for the sudden and brief presence of Oscar-bait in tiny suburban independent cinemas), but rather for meta-commentary on whether dusty “academies”of elderly creatives can reward the best works. If that spectacle leaves you cold, then you’re left with the artists who don’t care whether they get noticed.

There’s no doubt that Jesca Hoop deserves to be noticed. Her brand of anti-folk is simultaneously graceful and restless. Imagine Joanna Newsom trying to sound more like Merrill Garbus. Her verses are wordy and meandering, while the choruses of Memories Are Now are simplistic and repetitive. At an extreme, the chorus of “Cut Connection” breaks the title down into syllables and repeats them until they are meaningless, just like the love which leaves Hoop feeling disconnected from her unresponsive heart.

Despite her idiosyncrasies, there’s no doubting Hoop as a lyricist. “Animal Kingdom Chaotic” sweeps through Brexit, drone bombings, and rising automation with dry wit. On “The Lost Sky,” she compares a difficult break up to “the bitter burden of a signal run cold.” Her gift for conjuring an evocative metaphor is most apparent on “Pegasi,” on which Hoop compares herself to a flying horse, with lovers desperately clinging to her like “the envy of the sky” because “every ember wants to ride the supernova.”

By far the best bit of songwriting on the album is the closing track, “The Coming.” Hoop left Mormonism when she was 16, and this track elaborates on her current bugbears with Christianity: condescension, fear, hatred, and exclusivity. It’s Christ’s resignation in the bookend which really stands out:

Jesus turned in his crown of thorns today
And announced to the Earth and the heavens the end of his reign
He took a seat next to the Devil and said, “I need a new name”
And the coming never came

For all its beautiful lyricism, the album leans a little too much on Hoop’s words to really stand out. There aren’t any memorable melodies, and the instrumentation is pretty much just guitar, leaving little room for the album to elevate itself to timelessness. When the words are this good, though, that’s not necessarily a problem.

Other notable releases

Lupe Fiasco – Drogas Light

Teen Daze – Themes For Dying Earth

Mother Mother – No Culture

Tall Ships – Impressions

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