Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In Which the Devolutionist Discovers Jesca Hoop is Not an Unlikable Kate Bush Knock-Off

Yr. Musical Devolutionist has been aware of Jesca Hoop in the same sense that he’s aware of vegan food: it exists, people seem to like it, but though he has heard good things, it does not sound interesting enough to actively seek out.  If the Devolutionist is hungry, he likes to eat chicken or hamburgers or sushi.  If he is jonesing for pop music sung by female voices, the ipod is chock full of Tori Amos, Cat Power, and bands like Stars and LAKE. 

Seeing as how the ipod’s hard drive has a couple of unused gigs, I figured I’d give Hoop’s new album Hunting My Dress an audition.  I’m pleased to report she’ll likely find a spot in the rotation.  This record is full of off-kilter loopiness guided by Hoop’s unpredictable voice, which can soar into higher registers or slink into a sultry purr, all with an unclassifiable accent that clips off some words and draws out others.  It’s as if the Corrs were channeling Fiona Apple, filtering out all the moody angst.

The songs on Hunting My Dress come at you from odd angles.  Hoop is not grounded by her own piano playing like Tori or her guitar like early Liz Phair, which frees her and producer Tony Berg to explore the sonic spectrum.  The album opens with the slow-burning “Whispering Light” and its hippie-drum-circle beat, expands to the crashing drum machines over the chorus of “Angel Mom” and the dance-beat pop and overdubbed vocals of “Four Dreams” (easily the best cut on the record) to the violin-backed acoustic guitar pickings of the album’s title song, a meditation on love that, like the rest of the songs here, is shot through with naturalistic imagery (“And the tall trees all fell down/And they scattered seeds on the ground.”)

Perhaps the best way to describe this album is through what it lacks: devotion to any particular style, fear of exploration, or desire to please one subset of listeners over anyone else.  In other words, there is something here for every fan of pop music.
The lack of a constant –either in instrumentation or lyrical themes or Hoop’s voice – is what gives this record its power.