Maybe it’s the season, but when she’s talking about her new album Memories Are Now, the California-raised, Manchester, UK-based musician Jesca Hoop can’t help using flowery language.
“You never know how [a career] is going to bloom for an individual. And for me, I feel like the roots have been under-watered and the bud has been kind of closed for a while,” Hoop says over the phone.
“In order to put the work out into the world, [an artist] needs a lot of support, and if that support is at all restrained, the bud is going to stay closed,” she continues. “Over the last year and a half, I’ve received more support, so I’m able to reach out further and my blossom is opening.”
Evidence of said blossoming is all over Memories Are Now, Hoop’s first solo album for Sub Pop Records. (Last year the seminal Pacific Northwest label released her duets record with Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam.) Across nine tracks, Memories showcases all of the qualities that make Hoop a must-listen, including her knack for melodies that are both comforting and unique, her enthusiasm for the human voice as an instrument, and the uncommonly percussive nature of her timeless and sparkling folk tunes.
The album begins with the stunning title track, which features a chorus befitting a fresh start: “Clear the way, I’m coming through no matter what you say,” Hoop sings against a choir of oohs and a single plucked string. “I’ve got work to be doing/If you’re not here to help, go find some other life to ruin.”
She sings of love and loss in the celestial beauty “The Lost Sky” and defies Christian evangelism in “The Coming,” the album’s gorgeous, reverberant closer. A recurring lyrical theme: the tech-fueled ennui and emotional distance of modern times, with its pixelated generation hypnotized by glowing screens. Each song on Memories is exquisitely crafted and threaded with deep feelings that counterbalance the sparse arrangements.
“[Songs come to me] when I’m feeling particularly emotional, like the morning after heavy whiskey drinking,” Hoop says. “Something that causes you to feel emotionally kind of cracked open or vulnerable. A lot of times stuff comes when you’re tired or when you’re traveling. It comes in a multitude of ways, and I tend to write them down and squirrel away these little ideas.”
Hoop—who famously nannied for Tom Waits years ago—has put out a bunch of albums over the past decade, but Memories Are Now feels sharper and more spirited than her other recent work. She credits Sub Pop, Beam, her supportive partner, and a few others for not only opening up new doors for her to walk through, but also giving her a little push.
“Years ago, I was told by someone that I trusted that I should expect what I want to come to me,” Hoop says. “I should just expect it. And I think that set me up for some trouble, actually. It caused me to... buckle under [uncertainty] rather than just taking my path for what my path is.”
Here, the floral analogy blooms again.
“I don’t have the sense of entitlement that I had at the beginning,” she says. “[Now], my stomach is strong, so when tough stuff comes around, I don’t think I wilt as easily.”