By Jesca Hoop
Attention wiccans and hippies—Jesca Hoop’s Hunting My Dress (with Bonus EP) is your new theme music. Ethereal and bluesy, this nine-track album and folksy five song EP are a call to light incense, join a drum circle and bake your own bread.
Hunting My Dress is Hoop’s second full-length album. Her musical career commenced in 2003 when Tom Waits (she had worked as a nanny for his children) endorsed her work. This high-profile support led to an EP Silverscreen Demos in 2004 and later the 2007 critically-acclaimed album Kismet. Another EP, Kismet Acoustic followed in 2008.
From the pagan-sounding chorus of “Whispering Light” to the hushed madrigal vibe of the title track on Hunting My Dress, Hoop shows an interest in the album as a cohesive art form. Instead of staying in the realm of random plays on an iPod, Hoop’s songs speak to each other with a surreal lyricism, creating an otherworldly narrative of medieval kingdoms, long-distance lovers, childhood trees, and old-school stereos.
There’s more mysticism in Hoop’s lyrics than an Anne Rice novel: “Under the spell of full November moon/ light on the broom/ frost in my room/ in through a window came a ghost I knew.”
Musical influences abound in her work—many of the songs on Hunting My Dress are reminiscent of other artists. “Angel Mom” recalls the vocals of Kate Bush—plaintive and mournful. Hoop’s matter-of-fact guitar and vocals on “Bed Across the Sea” evoke Ani DiFranco. Lusty and percussion-driven, “Four Dreams” recollects Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual de lo Habitual. Yet these diverse influences create an indefinite persona—if Hoop can be all of these artists, then who is she outside of them? Another example of this artistic ambiguity is the brogue that appears in a few songs. Hoop is an American living in England—so (like Madonna before her) she has clearly picked up an accent.
Is she British or not British? Is she Kate Bush or Jane’s Addiction? It’s not that Hoop can’t be both or all of the above. But at some point, an artist has to move away from her influences to determine her identity. Hoop tries on different musical styles in Hunting My Dress and they all fit perfectly. However, her creative forces—the lyrical narratives, mysticism and expansive sense of musical experimentation—will be obscured if she continues to only echo other artists.
An untitled Bonus EP is included with Hunting My Dress. Three Kismet songs, a B-side from the UK version of Hunting My Dress, and collaboration with Blake Mills makes up the compilation.
First-time listeners experience a less mystic Hoop on this EP, and fans who know her music can re-visit the directness of her earlier pop-folk style. The roots of Hoop’s experimentation can be heard in “Enemy,” an indie-ballad in the key of Liz Phair, but the EP revels in guitar and vocals. Stand-outs are the buoyant love song “My Boo” and the alternative rock duet “Wintersong.”
Hunting My Dress and the Bonus EP show different sides of Jesca Hoop. Folk singer and pagan chorus, she is unafraid of exploring musical styles. As Hoop develops as an artist, it will be fascinating to see which style becomes her own.