Santa Rosa-born and raised singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop has never been one to shy away from the weird and wonderful. Embracing complex vocal harmonies and a lush mélange of offbeat instrumentation to develop an unusual form of beauty, all at once graceful and frenetic, has pretty much been Hoop’s billing from the start. This much evidenced in songs like “Summertime” and “Havoc in Heaven” from her 2007 debut album, Kismet. Even her non-musical past is laced with unconventional quirks, such as her odd-job as a nanny to Tom Waits’ children making for a story angle when promoters were initially working to get the ‘Hoop’ name on the rise.
All said, it is arguable that Hoop had never really gotten the fair shake for her work on even a national level before her work with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam on 2016’s Love Letter For Fire. The album went on to get “Best of” nods from multiple publications, and the two had a pretty successful tour promoting their work together in the midst of following up their celebrated LP with the single “Milky Way”. It was a productive year for the duo before breaking off, back into their individual expenditures—so much so that Hoop is coming into a new solo release with real momentum for the first time since she was known explicitly as “the singing nanny ex-Mo”.
Memories Are Now brings the idiosyncratic nature of Hoop’s original artistic design to the forefront with as much grace and freneticism as she has always born, although to a newly expanded audience and with a bit more production polish, to boot. Comparisons to First-Aid Kit are unavoidable given that right out of the gate, Hoop showcases her penchant for making vocal harmonies altogether outré and palliative on the album’s title track. Angelic and peculiar, “Memories Are Now” highlights Hoop’s masterful abilities as a songwriter to make the unusual feel comforting and familiar.
The same could be said of the rest of the album’s showings, as well. “Animal Kingdom Chaotic” highlights the aforementioned frenetic quality of Hoop’s work rather well, focusing on her several, sweeping vocal ticks that emit vibes as playful as they are post-apocalyptic. “Simon Says” will probably feel most familiar to her previous work with Beam, with its countrified back-and-forth reminiscent of the moods brought to the table by the rising trend of folk duos along the lines of Shovels & Rope. Elsewhere, “Pegasi” offers up a beautiful arrangement that is stirringly simplistic coming from a songwriter of Hoop’s eclectic pedigree. The song stands out as one of the album’s highlights, feeling almost cosmic in its vocal sincerity and the way that its arrangement ebulliently sways.
At once daringly astute and gleamingly sincere, assertive and eloquent, Hoop’s Memories Are Now should have no trouble in picking up those fans who just recently hopped on board during her outing with Beam and running with them. Memories Are Now is a prime showing off what those who have followed Hoop for the past decade or more have already known, albeit with some added miles on the road that have only made that musical mind of hers that much more brilliant.