After half a decade of rediscovering her discography, Jesca Hoop shows us what she's learned in the interim.Sub Pop, 2017
Purchase: Sub Pop Records / Amazon
7.5 / 10
Although it’s only been five years since Jesca Hoop’s last record, The House That Jack Built, it feels like it’s been a decade. Chalk it up to the intermediary releases: two acoustic reworkings of past albums (The Complete Kismet Acoustic and Undress) and a full-length duet with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam (Love Letter For Fire). In this short span of time, we witnessed what felt like a mid-life crisis. Hoop has always been a survivor of disproportional responses – her three albums should have had a bigger audience, perhaps not with radio stations, but surely with the self-styled cognoscenti of indie/alternative music. While The House That Jack Built was Hoop’s most eclectic record yet, it also seemed to be a final attempt to connect with a larger audience. The next few years would find Hoop testing and retesting her back catalog by reimagining her old songs as acoustic, intimate performances. What she learned during that time we can hear now on 2017’s Memories Are Now.
Compare the opening tracks of Memories Are Now with The House That Jack Built. The new record opens up with a bare, simple beat and Hoop’s rhythmic pronunciations. You can use the word “tribal” if you’d like, though that word could easily apply to nearly everything Hoop has touched, with her earthy, rootsy tendencies. 2012’s “Born To”, on the other hand, feels overproduced – an attempt to reach college radio stations on the coast. What did Hoop learn in the five years between these songs? “Less is more,” apparently, which will be a theme for the rest of this record.
Should you listen to Memories Are Now? Of course you should. You should listen to everything Jesca Hoop releases because her music is always a pleasure. But how much you like the album can be determined by how much you agree with a “less is more” philosophy. Her last record was a shotgun scatter-shot, with Hoop taking a stab at several different styles and genres. I would apologize for mixing metaphors here, but it’s appropriate given the record we’re talking about. Memories Are Now, however, is quieter and more controlled. It’s less weird; it’s less manic; it’s less exciting, but it’s also less messy.
Coming off of a string of acoustic albums, Jesca Hoop’s new record easily meets high expectations, but it falls short of high hopes. Memories Are Now are filled with moments of quiet beauty (“Songs of Old”, “The Lost Sky”, “Pegasi”), but the best and most memorable tracks are the ones where Hoop allows herself to get loud. The last track, “The Coming”, for example a best-of-both-worlds situation. Featuring only voice and electric guitar, this closer feels painfully honest and sincere – even indignant at times. Sure, quiet, understated Hoop is good, but after five years of being understated, it’s great to hear her get loud.
“Memories Are Now”
“The Lost Sky”