Jesca Hoop’s Memories Are Now is truly something to behold. Conceptually bold in both musicality and subject matter, this is a brave and beautiful project from an artist exerting full masterly control over what she creates. Illustrated with a focused, intense delivery, her fifth album is a verbose and beautiful work that is at once cerebral and sublime.
The title track’s plodding progression is temporal in concern. Crescendos abruptly dissolve to the bare-bones staccato chug of her isolated guitar. Venting her frustration, Hoop looks forward to the future where she’s “got work to be doing”. Creeping plucked double bass and tentative fingerpicked guitar then invite you into the volatile moodiness of the album’s lead single ‘The Lost Sky’. She laments, as a person who clearly values the linguistic integrity and semantic earnestness – “why would you say those words to me if you could not follow through? Go wash your mouth out”.
‘Animal Kingdom Chaotic’ deals with drone warfare over clacking keyboard keys and quivering guitar. Unfortunately, phrases such as “computer says no” and “take back control” resonate differently in British minds than in those of our Anglophone counterparts. The country-influenced ‘Simon Says’ is about feeling disconnected in the social media age, its refrain of “I like what I like” laden with meaning it could only have acquired in the 21st century. Here Hoop coins the epigram of the album in her lyric “w w don’t forget life before the internet”.
‘The Coming’ is the album’s highlight. Warm delayed guitar rumbles below then breaks with abrupt, shattering harmonics. There is no shying away from her subject – the song opens with “Jesus turned in his crown of thorns today […] announced to the earth the end of his reign”. In this nuanced battle with faith Hoop unleashes her most profound lyrics, leaving the listener spellbound and devastated.
Memories Are Now never lets you forget that you are listening to a project that is wholly Hoop’s. She scarcely stops for breath to relate witticism after witticism, and yet somehow these never seem forced. This is a courageous effort that will surely reap rewards.