on my boombox: jesca hoop, “the house that jack built”

4 Sep

The time between my initial discovery of an artist to when I first blog about them varies greatly. Some artists, like Radiohead, have received nearly a decade of my love and adoration before they make it on RwR. But I often think my most enjoyable posts are artists whom I’ve just discovered that month, week, day, or even hour, as this reflects a certain urgency; an urgency that only comes upon listening to a new artist or album for the first time and going, “HOT DAMN, I love this, this is awesome, I need to shout about this from rooftops!” And shout I do, but usually via WordPress instead of rooftops (usually).

This evening, I’m feeling that familiar urgency, and it’s for a woman named Jesca Hoop.

I stumbled upon this lady’s music over at You Ain’t No Picasso (an excellent music blog if you’re looking to add to the Google Reader), and I was hooked from the second I pushed play on “Born To.” As it turns out, “Born To” is just one of a bevy of excellent tracks on Jesca’s most recent album The House that Jack Built (which I also think is an excellent album name, though not sure why).

Some bio: Jesca grew up in a Mormon family in California, and later lived alone in the woods of California and Wyoming. (Side note: What is it about isolation that seems to spawn great female vocalists? Zola Jesus talking about her upbringing in the desolate, cold Wisconsin forests comes to mind). Somewhere along the way, she was lucky enough to nanny for Tom Waits’ kids for five years (where do I sign up for that gig?). Her musical career, however, only took shape in 2007 with her debut album Kismet.

Now, the important stuff- the music. Jesca’s unconventional upbringing and prolonged time spent away from contemporary society resonates in her sound, which is all at once modern and rustic. I don’t mean to belittle Jesca by tying her to comparisons, but I truly think she fuses the musical aspects of so many female artist whom I admire. She shows the songwriting chops of Fiona Apple, the free-spiritedness of Bjork, the haunting intrigue of PJ Harvey, and the musical power punch of St. Vincent. Though she will automatically gain fans who are inclined to the female-singer-songwriter style, I think the tunes are rich enough to appeal to a wider audience; I suspect they’d pull in casual listeners who wouldn’t have the attention span for Fiona Apple, simply because the sounds are so gosh darn interesting (not to mention beautifully arranged and relateable).

I’m hard-pressed to choose a favorite track from The House That Jack Built, so I’ll post a smorgasbord. Please go out and listen to the whole thing on your own. It’s an album to spend an afternoon with, to sing your teeth into, and (I bet) one that you will play over and over again. I know I will.

“Born To”

“Ode to Banksy”

“Hospital”

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