Jesca Hoop’s latest release Memories Are Now relies upon two elements: Hoop’s reverberating vocal tones and vast spectrum of emotions. The record is stripped-back, feeling more like an intimate gig than a produced release.
The listener is brought on a journey, beginning with ‘Memories Are Now’, which is an off-kilter opener. It is predominantly characterised by a bass line that steadily thumps along as Hoop sings herself a pep talk of sorts, creating an upbeat melody that inspires the listener to feel engaged with the song, and the rest of the record that is to follow.
Not content to remain somewhat happy for too long, ‘The Lost Sky’ is a haunting song that retains its jilted rhythmical qualities, continuing the mood of ‘Memories Are Now’ from a different viewpoint. Again, the song relies heavily on Hoop’s vocals, shying away from production technologies in order to create a more authentic sound.
This ethos can be found in ‘Animal Kingdom,’ an interesting song, as Hoop’s minimal musical style is contrasted with lyrics about technology’s effect on our lives, repeating the line “computer says no.” The rousing drums in this song create a battle cry for luddites who are afraid of being drones. It’s clear that Hoop’s work with producer Blake Mills on the record has been formed on the tacit agreement to eschew the somewhat typical choice to use studio production to elevate a record, and instead put out a release that at least sounds like it could have been recorded live.
This style continues with ‘Cut Connection,’ an energetic song that uses multiple vocals to inspire creating allies and a community. However, the use of such layered vocals is cleverly done – it gives the impression of multiple voices joining in with the melody as a singsong, even if common sense dictates it was heavily rehearsed.
Mills and Hoop build upon this communal feel with ‘Songs of Old.’ This, however, is a choral inspired piece that moves to ‘Unsaid,’ a frenzied melody of the aftermath of an argument and returns to Hoop’s singular vocals to create a narrative for the album based upon Hoop’s own emotions.
Memories Are Now is by all accounts and purposes a lovely album, one that sounds as if it has been created as a template for live performances. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but a potential lack of spontaneity where a live performance sounds the exact same as the recording could be a let-down for Hoop’s fans.