A few weeks ago, over beers, I was talking with a friend about music that we liked. I talked about how lyrics, generally, are a hurdle for me, and I need something else to pull me into a song; something else about a song has to make me want to listen to and understand the lyrics.
The evening that I write this piece, I find myself reading Jesca Hoop lyrics trying to figure out why I like her new album so much. It’s pretty much all love songs, I guess. I have a heart, I like love, but, you know, maybe there’s more ground to cover. It makes me think of David Byrne’s discussion of “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)”; he concedes it is a love song, though a topic he generally avoids, because it is “kinda big” and he likes to write songs about other things. (Thus we have More Songs About Buildings and Food.)
I really love Jesca’s new offering, Memories Are Now offering, and I think what draws me in is her craftsmanship, and the craftsmanship of her co-conspirators, to put songs together.
Late last year, Jesca teased us by playing one track in the 6 Music studios, “Pegasi”, with promise of a February album release. I’ve shared this track previously.
The BBC offering was my introduction to her. I bought the album the weekend it was released. I know now that she had 4 LPs and 3 EPs released prior to the February release.
Sometimes I’m slow to catch on.
I’ve been listening to this track over and over for 3 months, and I’ve been listening to the album for a couple of weeks. Why am I so drawn to it? It’s pretty simple, really. First, beautiful voice with easy range, and the backing vocals have their say. Second, two interesting guitar parts – not rock god, hot-riff kind of guitar parts – but skilled and pleasing; parts that stand out only to augment the voice-as-instrument and work around the nooks and crannies of Jesca’s voice. Third, not many love songs invoke the imagery of a supernova. Hot stuff.
And I think that’s the secret. The singer-songwriter needs something else. Simon and Garfunkel got away with generally-simple guitar accompaniment, because their voices worked so well together. Bob Dylan, as great as he is, wouldn’t get away with solo-acoustic shows anymore; he came of age at a time when folk music was it and his words had great meaning for that era. But Jesca is demonstrating a craftsmanship in song building – instrumental themes that work with lyrics, and lyrics that fit around the song’s structure and rhythm. Lyrics and sound that mesh. Nothing forced, Jesca seems to put everything together to sound natural. Beautiful. Here’s another track for you, “Simon Says”.
Memories are Now has a place on my playlist.
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