Jesca Hoop: Kismet


27. Sep. 2007, 14:02

Some kind of magical perfectness chilling one to the bone… a soft, daisy-perfumed summer wind blowing in your ears…a fresh grass smell you can’t stop breathing in… an exotic-obscure sensation having you hypnotized the moment she enters your world… What to say? What to write more to describe her? Nothing probably, after hearing her image from Tom Waits’ master eyes; "Jesca Hoop's music is like a four sided coin. She is an old soul, like a black pearl, a good witch or a red moon. Her music is like going swimming in a lake at night."

For me, it’s all started with these lines sung by a soft female vocal with a sweet accent from out of this world: “beautiful, alone with my enemy and share a bitter cup of poisoning my countenance…” I was crashed, hooked, hypnotized, fascinated, charmed immediately looking back to the player thinking “who was it again?!”… I knew an undiscovered space in musicland was going to be filled with the creator of this melody and I would stop thinking “what to listen next?” at least for a while…

So who was Jesca Hoop? A country girl born in a Mormon family geared to music, raised up with strict rules - so strict that she wasn’t even allowed to watch MTV which actually might be a good thing considering her career shaping up away from commercial pop - sang in choirs, listened to diversity of artists from The Police to Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell to The Pogues, Talking Heads to Neil Diamond… A rebel turning down rules of Mormonism upon her parents’ break up, smoking pot… and finally moving to LA following her dream. In LA, her “kismet” brings her to Tom Waits’ door as a nanny for his children –whose music had inspired her drawing her own path in music as well as Kate Bush, Diamanda Galas. Through Tom Waits, Nic Harcourt of KCRW gets a demo of Seed of Wonder which was nothing more than an acoustic guitar and vocals at the time. It becomes one of the most requested songs in Morning Becomes Eclectic, opening a bright succesful future to the bewitching music of Jesca Hoop. She gains more and more fans in awe of her talent since then and her supporting The Polyphonic Spree in summer of 2007 proved her extraordinary talent once again, putting a spell on the audience.

Working hard with talented musicmen (her producer Damian Anthony in particular!), making handful demos, listening to anything but her big heart Jesca has now released her debut Kismet which clearly puts wide smiles on faces of her fans, it blows up, swings off… It is as dark and provoking as it goes.

You can’t know where her vocals or lyrics are leading. She is so free that makes you fly away with a cotton-soft wind to unknown places… Summertime par exemple; a song starting with an energetics intro, moving along childlikely and then immediately turning into a tranquil voice of a mature woman. All of a sudden we find ourselves seeing somewhat mad feminity in the lyrics and vocals.

Seed of Wonder starts diligently after first song and single Summertime; this time rearing up with Stewart Copeland’s responsive drums. That Stewart Copeland of The Police, one of the bands Jesca Hoop has been a fan since her childhood! 6 minutes of joy and lyrics leaking out from a plain, hooking melody - in Seed of Wonderland!

And Enemy.. A tune I would never ever get tired of listening. How plain, how natural, how innocent, how from the heart Jesca sounds all the way?! Just like a quiet, personal treatment transfering one to a white-green relaxing dimension. A dimension in an out-the-way place…

Jesca Hoop’s voice has already been compared to many great female vocalists such as Laura Veirs, Fiona Apple, Björk, St. Vincent, Marissa Nadler. To me - if I have to correspond her voice to something - she sounds more like Joanna Newsom (in Silverscreen) and Shana Levy of Let's Go Sailing (in Enemy). Though considering the changable wave and tone of her vocals even in one song it is hard to classify her singing on a certain line.
Anyway, Silverscreen is another amazing piece in this fairy tale entitled Kismet. A myth Jesca heard when she was a kid inspired her writing this tune. It is about where you go when you die. According to this Myth; instead of heaven you go to a screening of your life where they show bad things you did when you were alive. These thoughts in her mind brings these lines along “gates of heaven open, there is me, on the silverscreen, I hope they did good editing”. How can you not adore these words?

Money is a drastic pun to music business which is mainly being run by the power of Money rather than what an artist feels like writing. Lyrics goes like ;“Money’ll make you change your sound, if the price is right…” blaming musicians “signing away their free will to write sing-a-longs”. Highly rhyming structure of lyrics and the catchy melody must be part of the pun here, I assume.

Dreams in the Hollow is one of my favorites in the album. It’s like a bunch of innocent words telling some tale scooping from childhood and finds itself in a darkish melody decked with strings and hair rising, eerie back vocals.

An emotional moment of the record is where Jesca gently sings “Love me now, love is all we have” trying to find an alleviation for “nameless streets, faceless homes of New Orleans”. Love is All We Have - a touching ballad written after Hurricane Katrina.

Intelligentactile 101 was written for Jesca’s nephew when her sister was pregnant. It’s almost impossible not to sing along while she goes “I want your fingers on my tongue” with excitement thanks to The Yoshida Brothers’ contributions in the studio.

Havoc in Heaven is one of the songs we remember from Silverscreen Demos (in which Jesca worked with The Ditty Bops for Fixit Men). A brilliant story created with Jesca Hoops undefinable ingenuity. Thought provoking lyrics and dreamy vocals following an impressive acoustic intro.

A snappy tune Out the Back Door reminds us some old school hiphop beats, telescoped with Sasha Smith’s illustrious piano touches.

And the fairy tale closes its curtain with a mellow piece; Love and Love Again which is a collaborative work of Jesca Hoop and David Baerwald. Impressive vocals, touching lyrics as usual, coming together in a spot-on closer.

A natural talent, born to sing (and write) Jesca Hoop. Vitalizing childhood fantasies, country memories, feminen desires, thoughts on life, birth and heaven…, she invites you into her fantastic world with her dreamy voice, of-the-wall fur haloing her dark hair and the spell steaming out from her candid eyes. Are you ready to participate in her “kismet” and go swimming in a lake at late night?!..

-Champers xx

Note: Jesca Hoop is on tour with Matt Pond PA. I can still insist you all not to miss her even though I am crawling with jealousy because they are not heading to my door!


  • Babs_05

    Thanks for a great journal. I enjoyed reading this. : )

    28. Sep. 2007, 3:33
  • sevensystem

    great review! some of the details that i didn't know already have just furthered my love for her music. i listen to her more and more each week, search the depths of the internet for any old live performances and demos i can uncover, and things are only going to get worse when i see her on october 26th for the first time.

    28. Sep. 2007, 12:47
  • champersnova

    Thanks for your nice responds Babs and Sevensystem! :-) I have been digging her live performances on Youtube but there's not much stuff enough. Hope you have a blast on October 26th. I am sure you'll anyway!

    28. Sep. 2007, 13:47
  • sevensystem has a pretty decent listing of some of her performances for free download. you may want to check it out, it's got some early versions of songs like .

    28. Sep. 2007, 15:19
  • champersnova

    Treasure! Thank you very much!

    28. Sep. 2007, 22:26
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