Jesca Hoop: “Memories Are Now” review

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Rating: 8.1/10

There is an urgency to Jesca Hoop’s new album “Memories Are Now.” You can hear it in the movement of her fractured guitar or the haunting vibrato of her voice. Her Feist-like vocal delivery trembles through on the title track opening up the album, tenuous but confident. The song is spacious, opening up into an almost anthemic affirmation of life. Hoop lays the battle lines thick, proving to herself and others that she doesn’t intend to back down:

 

“Clear the way, I’m coming through

No matter what you say

I’ve got work to be doing

If you’re not here to help, go find some other life to ruin

Let me show you the door”

 

Second track “The Lost Sky” continues the onslaught. Documenting the world that is lost when we lose a relationship, the song drives forward with ferocity as Hoop’s delivery of “And when we said the words ‘I love you’ / I said them ‘cause they were true” breaks and angers your heart at the same time. Hoop confronts world-ending heartbreak with a passion meant to smash through the wall of memory and regret. If we can’t live stuck on those emotions anymore, then maybe the mission is as urgent as “Memories Are Now” suggests.

 

Yet love isn’t her only concern. The imposition of technology on our lives also haunts Hoop. In her world computers have started to control our lives. Others aren’t bothered by this, and Hoop wonders why. On “Animal Kingdom Chaotic,” the singer confronts a reality where everything can be quantified in ones and zeros. “Are we so different from computers?“ She seems to ask. This question comes off especially urgent in a world where computers can help us make decisions and drones can kill by remote control command. Are we losing control? Hoop sings:

 

“Oolahooo

You know you wanna but the

Oohahoo

Computer says no

Oolahoo

You know you wanna, wanna take back control

Take back control

Take back control

Take back control

 

Similar sentiments come out on “Simon Says,” where Hoop sings “WWW. / Don’t forget about life before the internet.” Throughout the song she repeats that she likes what she likes, but then turns around and wonders why. Who’s making our decisions, anyway? Hoop doesn’t answer these questions for us, maybe because anything of that sort is ultimately unanswerable. What moves our lives in certain directions?

 

“Memories Are Now” moves easily and subtly through different musical atmospheres, though most of the album lacks the raw power and spaciousness of the first two tracks. A bit of urgency is lost by the time we arrive at “Pegasi,” a sweet but mysterious folk song chronicling a free and surrendering sort of love:

 

“Through many love lit moons

I served my rider well

I suffered the bid

And took his spur into my side

 

And still I paid the price

And I shook that bridle free

And my beloved rider fell from the stars into the sea

You’re of the earth

I’m pegasi”

 

Yet the end of “Memories Are Now” comes with a quiet ferocity. “The Coming,” a song with guitar work that moves meditatively through behind the vocals, packs some of the fiercest lyrics on the whole album. Hoop begins the song evocatively:

 

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

 

“The Coming” is intensely personal. We watch as Hoop unpacks a religious upbringing, seeming to finally lose her faith completely through the length of the song. As she loses her beliefs “layer by layer,” she confronts the emotions surrounding it. She finds fear inside of her again, spiraling downward toward the heart of the conflict. On “Memories Are Now,” Hoop just can’t live a life based on fear anymore, whether it’s of another person or of God. There’s too much work to do for that. One line in “The Coming” sums up the leap she, and all us, have no choice but to take:

 

“And now it’s the long ride through the unknown which I embrace”

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