Jesca Hoop’s music has a distinct sound that is always slightly off beat and has a cobbled together feel. When everything is pounding in the same direction, it gives her music a certain power to it. Clearly inspired by her recent collaboration album with Sam Beam, Jesca strips back her sound to a more folksy sound and I’m not sure it always works to her advantage.
Opening with the title track, we have a muted electric guitar fumble along in a human strum but because the beat is so rigid, it doesn’t quite sound like the track is running at the right speed. It’s a shame because it gets the album off to an awkward start and “The Lost Sky” follows up with exactly how Jesca can play to all her strengths. The waltzing track has tension, drama, intricacy and hidden power in every note and really showcases the folk side of Hoop to perfection. “Animal Kingdom Chaotic” too have plenty of tonal switches during its several minutes and really feels like a mini EP in its own right.
“Simon Says” is a straight up bluegrass track and feels like its recorded somewhere completely different. Jesca’s voice and the instruments all sound different to the rest of the album and its a nice enough track but feels separate to everything else. “Cut Connection” is a great track with anger and spite running through its veins. It also tries to bridge the audio production gap between Simon Says and the rest of the track but it doesn’t quite work. The track itself though is a stand out as it descends into a gritty pub brawling shanty tale with grizzling guitar and lots of rowdy voices reciting lyrics.
One track where minimalism works is “Songs of Old”. It takes its time and simple melody and male vocals that underpin the chorus’ really ground everything in space and time. The bridge is also really beautifully put together too with a nod to something holy in the audio. “Unsaid” in contrast is more plugged than most of the album and whilst the verses are utterly rocking, the choruses suffer from a weird time paradox where the heavy drums are smashing along at one speed but the vocals are going twice as slow and as it crosses over your ears all at once, it’s a bit of a mess. It strikes me as a song that I’ll enjoy after several more listens – and that’s the theme of the album. A grower, if you want to stick with it. “Pegasi” is a nice acoustic and vocal track whereas “The Coming” would make a lovely closer for a gig as well as an album as another guitar and vocal track rocks us out in a dark whirl of noise.
“Memories Are Now” is a really difficult to album to recommend. As a starter for Hoop, there’s more accessible stuff out there from her and fans will enjoy her usual nuances but may struggle in the production and lack of grunt across most of the album. It’s not that it’s a bad album – it’s just I’d place it as my least liked of hers to date and I’ll probably not return to it for a while to see if my opinion changes. If it does, I’ll let you know. If you are more folk than rock though – you’ll probably find this her best to date so judsge appropriately!
Recommended Track : “Cut Connection”