Folk Music Is Our New Religion
Jesca Hoop’s confident, sensuous alto is beautifully showcased on the title track of her new album, Memories Are Now. This song serves as an anthem for independence, ambition and living in the present. Throughout this album, Hoop pulls no punches, delivering her personal narratives in a captivating and poetic recitative. “The Lost Sky,” for one example, is read much like a poem, but in a contoured speech rhythm. The repeated, metered chorus permeates like a mantra.
“Memories are Now” is not nostalgic in its style as much as in its content. There is of course the title, which references memories as things that can only exist as past manifest in the present. “Animal Kingdom Chaotic” creates a dichotomy between the primal and the modern with persistent percussion and alternately stunted and elongated lyrical lines, such as, “you know you wanna but the computer says no / you know you wanna, wanna take back control.” The track “Songs of Old,” also harkens backward with simple guitar melodies and wide, chill-inducing harmonies that show off Hoop’s incredibly extensive vocal range and her ability to make speech profoundly musical. Melismatic solo lines are reminiscent of plainchant. “Cut Connection” appears to utilize a beating frame drum as Hoop’s raucous vocals implore the listener: “Come on, be the drummer in my heart…be part of all things.”
Religious undertones are also evident on the album, with motifs like mantras in many songs, as well as celestial and mythological imagery in the sweetly benign “Pegasi,” which lacks the resolution of something more understood. In “Songs of Old,” Hoop uses haunting harmonies to sing “The Rock of Ages.” And, most prominently, the closing track, titled “The Coming” – a work with rich chordal texture and liberal use of religious allegorical imagery – opens and closes with the line, “Jesus turned in his crown of thorns today…” With a metrical, primal feeling and vocals like a Brandi Carlile and Fleet Foxes collaboration, the whole album is a meditation on creating art in the modern age, while trying to figure out what we are meant to believe in.