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Memories Are NowJesca Hoop's new album Memories Are Now on Sub Pop Records wastes no time in making clear its confidence, confrontation, and craftsmanship. The stark and reverberant title track opens the album with "a fighting spirit," says Hoop, serving as an anthem to push through any obstacle and put forth your very best work. And she has unequivocally done that here, with an album of stunningly original songs--minimalist yet brimming with energy, emerging from a wealth of life experience, great emotional depth, and years of honing the craft of singing.
As riveting as it is reflective, the album, produced by Blake Mills (Fiona Apple, Alabama Shakes), is a fresh debut of sorts for Hoop, as the first of her solo records made outside of Tony Berg's Zeitgeist Studios where she and Mills were mentored. Says Hoop, "Blake is so utterly musical and emotionally intelligent in his expression. I wanted to see what we could do, just he and I out from under Tony's wing." Mills pushed her to strip away layers, keeping it as close to the live experience as possible, using whole live takes and working very quickly. "It's still covered in embryonic fluid, for lack of a better way to put it," says Hoop.
However fast the work, Memories Are Now covers a great deal of ground, showcasing every edge and curve of Hoop's captivating voice, with sounds and themes ranging from the mythic to the deeply intimate. She sings of the religion that weighs heavily on her past and the world, of the imagination of myth, of the cruel nature of life and love.
The defiance that permeates Memories Are Now is both a product and necessity of a career that has been independently driven and self-funded from the beginning. "All of my successes have been won on the grassroots level, with handshakes and hugs from great people who believe in me," says Hoop, more than a decade into her career and with new paths to forge. As she sings in the title track, "I've lived enough life, I've earned my stripes. That's my knife in the ground, this is mine." -Evie Nagy1. Memories Are Now
2. The Lost Sky
3. Animal Kingdom Chaotic
4. Simon Says
5. Cut Connection
6. Songs of Old
9. The Coming$18.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
BirthdaysIn this frantic Twitterworld, where all the genres of music are either mating with other genres, feeding on the past or searching for the next trending wave, Keaton Henson personifies the moment when time stops still. It's the almost shocking sound of one man and his gently stoked electric guitar, which flicks like the embers of a fire, as the singer's voice glows in the reflected light, safe in his panic room.
Crippled by anxiety since childhood, to the point that he rarely goes out or plays live, the wondrously bearded Keaton is the archetypal tortured recluse who channels his emotions not into shopping or clubbing but his art: he's a skilled illustrator too, of bare-boned drawings that are as starkly delineated as his guitar-playing.
Birthdays follows 2012's cult debut album Dear..., and for its first half, Henson avoids slipping into post-dubstep, chillwave or hiring Skrillex in order to fit in.
But there is change underfoot. Dear featured one drum track, so the subtle beat behind The Best Today is no biggie. But half way through the following Don't Swim, it's like an ember has landed in your lap. The song's sudden electrical charge, which persists through the following, thunderous Kronos, is the sound of Henson wrenched from his comfort zone. Birthdays' second track suggests he's even reached Paris.
In fact, the whole album was recorded in California by American producer Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, The Strokes). And various guests, including Jesca Hoop on ghostly backing vocals, have chipped in. Birthdays' second half takes Heaton closer to Jeff Buckley's turf: the unforced vibrato, the goosepimply effect and romantic hunger. But it's a subtle shift, and the instrumentation only partially reconfigures the secluded spell.
Beekeeper's occasional bouts of rock doesn't drown out the soft peals of banjo, while the swell of French horns, martial drum and Henson's fluttering voice in Sweetheart, What Have You Done to Us sounds like he's still in his bedroom. Up there, warmed by the fire, he's cloistered away from Twitter and all the other evils of this parish. There's no better way to shut out the din than by putting this record on.
This LP also includes a CD of the album.1. Teach Me
2. 10am Gare du Nord
4. Lying to You
5. The Best Today
6. Don't Swim
9. Sweetheart, What Have You Done to Us
10. In the Morning$19.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now