Posts Tagged ‘Jesca Hoop’

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From the new album “Stonechild” Red White and Black is a one of a kind within the songs off Stonechild. It’s a bitter pill… an anecdotal antidote. We get to hear Lucius sing with me the chorus ! The video which was directed by my old friend and collaborator Elia Petridis and his company Filmatics was a true adventure to make…from conception to execution. I’m game.

Jesca says of the song “Red White and Black” is a poem, like a snapshot, set in post civil war USA when slavery was “abolished” and swiftly rebranded by the prison system. It’s a personal acknowledgement and willingness to join the conversation for change”.

A culmination of life and musical experience, uncompromising in its vision, Stonechild, the new studio album from Jesca Hoop is a self described “compassion project.”

Released on July 5th by Memphis Industries, Stonechild is Hoop refined and defined. Beautiful, subtle and stark, her fifth album, the follow up to 2017’s highly acclaimed ‘Memories Are Now’, is her best yet.

Despite being a long term resident of Manchester, Hoop, has until now, returned to her native California to record. This time round however, “it was” according to Hoop“time to step out of my comfort zone, my safe place”, venturing south to Bristol to team up with producer John Parish (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, This is the Kit). Parish’s minimal and purist approach helped clarify Hoop in her ideas and subtly yet effectively realigning her sound. The simplified arrangements draw focus to the fundamental sophistication of the songs.

While Hoop’s trademark finger-plucked guitar and ethereal textures remain, the songs and their presentation are ever more direct.Parish“was a gentle collaborator until he killed one of my darlings” Hoop jests. “I’ve never been so brutally edited, and I wasn’t shy about expressing my discomfort at the sight of my work on the cutting room floor. He said, you will forgive me, and in some way I think I actually enjoyed that treatment…being stripped back to the bare basics…albeit painfully”. Stonechild ventures further into fresh territory with other voices joining the narrative, with Kate Stables (aka This is the Kit) Rozi Plain and Lucius singing the choruses and expanding the sensual depth of the sonic bloom.

Embedded in Hoop’s song writing is an inherent unpredictability something she ascribes to being “guided more from instinct than study”. Perhaps more than ever before, Stonechild sees Hoop lead us through uncharted landscapes across the course of the album. “When I look at the history of my life, I realise I have the breakdown of not only my parents’ marriage but also the breakdown of their parenting to thank for the wild and unexpected course that my life would take. I went looking for a raw and rugged world. the opposite of what I was raised in.”

The album title was settled after a trip to a Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, where the Stonechild is a sad, compelling display of an unborn foetus carried by a woman for over 30 years. “They become a hard ball of bones, a rock. Phonetically, it’s a beautiful sounding word – hard and soft – but also, I am taken by the idea of carrying something for a long time, perhaps in secret and then giving it up. I hope I have made an album of substance. There is meat on the bone”.

There certainly is; the breath-taking Shoulder Charge, with Lucius contributing backing vocals, speaks of stigmatized culture and the kind of isolation that is formed by shame in a world where were “we are actually and truly the same …even in our differences. To understand all is to forgive all”.

Old Fear of Father tackles an exhausted patriarchy and misogyny but if it was perpetuated by females. “I love my boys, more than I love my girl, try not to show it, she’s knows, like I knew”. It’s bare yet dense arrangement reveals a story that is both heart-breaking and shamefully true.

On Red White and Black, Hoop chants down white supremacy. “Now the iron cloth that’s cut from the loom bares the black and white stripe of a cotton field rolling- And the dark mines and flame of redeemers put them right back in the iron cloth and the flag is waving”. As Hoop says “current politics is fucking disturbing. I write from personal perspective, about relationships mostly and I don’t find much music in politics, but as hate crimes increase, women’s rights are being rolled back, and the two nations I call home are building walls… well, the political has become deeply personal.”

The folkiest moment on the album, the Kate Stables featuring Outside of Eden,concerns those young ones whose development is now guided by technology and the increasingly intimate relationship between child and device. Come shut in boys for the girlfriend experience, enter the code and I’ll taste real”.

Stonechild, Hoop says, is intended to “wrap its arms around our human planet spinning in its increasingly precarious wobble”. These rich and curious songs derived from themes of our troubled times speak Hoop’s heart and mind from her empathetic yet tough loving centre point. With writing so fluid, so natural the result is an album where everything is truly meant.

The Deer Shed Festival is a truly fantastic, family-friendly festival that somehow manages to retain a quality of music and band choices, Its true to its roots, where other festivals sometimes feel like a compromise. It fills a great gap between a serious festival for music lovers like myself who like to see the newer bands on the gigging circuit and also find that hidden newcomer, plus where else can the kids have fun rather than having to send them to the usual token and half-hearted kids field/tent like you get at other festivals. Where else do you have a whole football sized area for swingball or make cardboard boxes into something from your imagination.  From the whole heap of things to make in the science marquees to running around the perimeter of the park for you morning run.

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My Pick of Bands to check out over the weekend

Friday

It could be a difficult evening ahead, as there is such a huge array of talented bands on all stages Teenage Fan Club are such an iconic indie band surely not to be missed having released their 10th album this year, but we have some returning bands both with terrific album releases this year to the festival Honeyblood are a duo I’ve seen many times now, they played the festival two years ago, Stina Tweeddale’s is a great guitar player with her distorted ringing guitar and vocal performance to match, the band present rage-filled, but beautifully written, songs along with Cat Myers’s powerful drum beats constantly driving them forward. Stina is a great front person and for just a duo their sound is huge.

Happyness are a 3-piece alternative rock band from London, All 3 members write the songs, they also have played Deer Shed previously and have a real charm, their latest album is just another stunning collection full of wonderful power pop tunes  which finally followed up their great debut album “Weird Little Birthday” that included one of the best songs about Arcade Fire ever “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere” . LP2 is called “Write In”, and it finds the UK indie rockers continuing to explore the lackadaisical, sardonic indie rock pastures .

In The Dock Stage, Manchester band Cabbage a five piece serving up an idiosyncratic, satirical attacks in the form of discordant neo post-punk.Cabbage have been the festival band of the year drawing huge crowds to the stage as the year progressed .

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Lets Eat Grandma Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth are another big addition with a very visual stage presence.

Jesca Hoop has a  captivating voice her set with Sam Beam at the End Of The Road last year was possibly one of the best musical and magical moments of the last year, Hoop has released another stunningly good album earlier this year “Memories Are Now” the resulting combination is powerfully evocative, with overarching themes of biology, nature and humanity.

Over on the Obelisk stage Hopefully avoiding line-up clashes the headliners here are a folk duo not to be missed are the beautiful Folk-Rock vocals of Josienne Clarke and the guitar talents of her bearded band mate Ben Walker. Together, Clarke and Walker , both 34, are one of Britain’s biggest folk acts, with five albums of beautifully textured, twilight songs, plus many years of treading the dusty boards of folk sessions and festivals, and a coveted Radio 2 folk award for best duo between them. Original songs have been part of Clarke and Walker’s arsenal since day one, and their latest album, “Overnight”, includes seven of them: beautifully drawn miniatures full of a melancholy reminiscent of early-70s singer-songwriters. Clarke writes the songs, “the squishy, lyrical stuff”, while Walker’s the arranger and planner.  If you love bands like Pentangle or Fairport Convention and the voice of Sandy Denny Don’t miss this twosome ,

The other artist not to be missed on the friday is Bryde, aka Sarah Howells of the band Paper Aeroplanes  Praise for the Welsh songwriter has been well-bestowed,  Bryde music deals with human psychology and the darker side of broken relationships with an infectiously defiant and life-affirming quality. Described as being about entangling and unravelling, it sways from fierce to fragile.

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I really hope there isn’t any clashes as if you can get to see these above bands already its as good as it gets a superb first day at the Deer Shed.

Saturday 

My picks for Main Stage would have to be King Creosote  also known as independent singer-songwriter Kenny Anderson from Fife with his current album “Astronaut Meets Appleman”. The first track to be shared is the album’s opener ‘You Just Want’. A seven-minute piece of hymnal drone-pop, its touchstones are the art of patience, scenes of mild bondage and Venus (in Furs) . On Astronaut Meets Appleman, King Creosote is still upsetting apple-carts and dealing with the fallout, still appraising love and life, the moon, the stars; tide tables, bagpipe scores, zeros and ones; mathematics, ticking clocks and the beat of our hearts.

Saturday includes one of my favourite bands  The Big Moon are a band I’ve seen this last two years around fifteen times great indie-pop songs full of fun and just glorious girls to boot. Based in London the four-piece girl band formed in 2014 by Juliette Jackson.[ Their debut album, “Love In The 4th Dimension was released early April 2017, containing a number of singles previously released on their EP, The Road.

The band is signed to Fiction Records and have toured internationally. The Big Moon played as backing band for Marika Hackman’s second album, I’m Not Your Man, concluding in live dates across America recently,

Check out the first artist to hit the Main Stage on Saturday Nilufer Yanya her set at Latitude was considered the best of the weekend intricate guitar work weaves around the West Londoner’s soulful vocals and jazz-flecked instrumentation.  She started performing at 18, the same year she released debut single “Waves” which she made for a college project. Rejected twice from a popular music degree, she took an artist development course and steadily graduated from the city’s open-mic scene to cooler stages, eventually supporting artists like Mitski and headlining her own shows.

Listen to the ‘The Florist’, the standout from recent EP ‘Plant Feed’ is a propulsive gem

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In the Dock Stage My other pick of the day is Goat Girl who bought out a cracking single earlier this year Their debut release track ‘Country Sleaze’ which you can hear below, was one half of a double A-Side released on Rough Trade Records last October . ‘Sleaze’ is probably an apt description for the gritty new track which packs a sludgy bass line, jangling guitar and some pure unchecked, uncensored criticism of the world right now: “I’m disgusted, I’m ashamed of this so-called human race”.

On the Lodge Stage make sure you catch the Liverpool band Hooten Tennis Club, The band’s second album ‘Big Box of Chocolates’ was produced by Edwyn Collins If their debut album, Highest Point In Cliff Town, was the band’s statement of intent, Big Box of Chocolates  is a record that retains all the colour and invention of their debut, while being elevated by richer instrumentation and lyrics that hint at slightly heavier themes: love and loss, nihilism and the ‘non-spaces’ of Northern England, all delivered in the band’s typically laconic, bittersweet style. The dozen tracks continue the band’s knack of combining catchy off-kilter riffs with droll storytelling; album narrators – vocalists and guitarists Ryan Murphy and James Madden – seem to straddle optimism and uncertainty with their lyrics, whether singing about their internal worlds or commenting on a motley cast of characters who turn up across the album’s 41 minutes to amuse, tempt or torment them. Whether fictional (the awkward genius Jimmy ‘looking shifty in his new shoes’) or real (Ryan’s ex-housemate immortalised in first single ‘Katy-Anne Bellis’), each character shares an equal platform, all revered in Hooton’s own low-key way.

The giant of a man B.C Camplight the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist Brian Christinzio is the perfect showman with his dynamic and diverse take on BC Camplight’s epic pop pizzazz and simmering balladry combining eloquent songwriting with a self-destructive bent, he’s described himself as, “the guy who blew it.” Christinzio started playing piano aged just four, inspired by his mum’s Jerry Lee Lewis and Nilsson records and his Dad’s classical collection. But this sublime talent with the keening vocal and fearless approach to lyrical introspection has another chance.

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His album ‘How To Die In The North’, recorded in his newly adopted home of Manchester, England, is a fantastically rich, stylistically diverse trip. From dramatic, layered pop to a haunted take on Sixties sunshine-pop Beach Boy’s style, from blue-eyed soul to speedy surf-pop, from sparser piano balladry to psychedelic showstopper and a grand finale that’s part Nilsson and part Broadway showtune.

Sunday

Neil Hannon

The Main Stage headliner the Divine Comedy with the superb songs of Neil Hannon a welcome return from hyper-literate songsmith. With a new album “Foreverland” out now is another iteration collection of The Divine Comedy’s virtues – sumptuous, orchestral pop laced with lyrical acerbity. The new album highlight is the brilliantly song titled and perfectly judged Sinatra pastiche “I joined The Foreign Legion (To Forget)”.without a doubt they are the suitably ideal band to close the festival .

With the shimmering sounds of guitar-synths indie pop band Teleman ‘Brilliant Sanity’ was definitely one of the top albums of the year last year, the bands minimal sound has grown into something solid and substantial with constant touring and last years sold out tour. Teleman are currently working on their third album and therefore just playing just a few select festivals this summer.

Earlier in the day plus singer songwriter Hannah Lou Clark. Its a shame that the Dock Stage has no music whatsoever on the Sunday I would love to see another 4 bands present their talents to make the day and weekend complete . In the Lodge Stage I love the sound of the Sunderland based songwriter  Martin Longstaff  under the name The Lake Poets and then later the rockier psychedelic sound of Flaming Gods, Juanita Stern could be a hidden gem if you recall the band Howling Bells who made a great record on the Bella Union label then seemed to disappear she returns with her debut solo album ‘America’ to be released late july.

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So lots to see and so many things to do especially for the kids, my only criticism is I would like to see even more music each stage could do with one more band, to make this more than the perfect festival especially when there are bands like Lewis Capaldi, George Taylor ,Estrons, Girl Ray, Gurr, Dream Wife, Blaenavon, Pumarosa, The Wharves, Palace ,Our Girl (Sophie From The Big Moon’s other band), Mammut, Japanese House, Shame , Keir, Flyte , Stevie Parker, Lemon Twigs and Lucy Rose all crisscrossing the country this weekend , The Big Moon are playing three festivals just that day as are Cabbage plus I would love to see a few more USA artists passing through.

Spoken Word & Literary line-up

Owen Jones, Tim Dowling, Stuart Heritage, Amy Liptrot, Woody Woodmansey, Ken Scott, Vanessa Kisuule, Rob Cowen, Anthony Clavane, Kate Pankhurst, Dominic Berry, Rowan McCabe, Kate Fox, Paul Cookson, Lorna Mallet, Jenna Drury, Hoglets, Say Owt Slam Poetry, Shed Talks, Pip Theatre, Mud Pie Arts and A Thoughtful Place To Be.

The highlight to look out for here is Woody Woodmansey and Ken Scott From The Beatles to Bowie, Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust. Ken Scott best known as Beatles engineer and producer of no less than five classic David Bowie albums. Woody Woodmansey, meanwhile, is the Yorkshireman drummer from humble Driffield who boarded Bowie’s spaceship and became A Spider From Mars.

This unique event reunites them both. Ken will be talking about his new book Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust and Woody will wow Deer Shedders with tales from and not from his recent autobiography, before a joint audience Q&A. If you ever wanted to know what it was like to be in the studio with Beatles or share a bus with Ziggy Stardust, this is a very special chance to find out.

Comedy line-up .

John Shuttleworth, Hal Cruttenden, Justin Moorhouse, Ivo Graham, Josh Howie, Bec Hill, Tom Parry, Sarah Bennetto, Scummy Mummies, Nick Doody, Edd Hedges, Patrick Monahan, Dan Nightingale and Hannah Silvester.

Memories Are Now

Jesca Hoop’s fourth proper solo LP and first for Sub Pop is entitled “Memories Are Now”, a reference to the concept of seizing the day. With producer Blake Mills the album encompasses much of the range of her previous output, which routinely challenged the boundaries of indie rock and folk, encouraging a label more along the lines of unconventional singer/songwriter. It follows her excellent likewise free-spirited but more rustic duet album with Iron and Wire’s Sam Beam “Love Letter For Fire” by less than a year, and any new fans from that collaboration may well delight in its expressiveness right alongside established fans. The empowering title track, which opens the album, is spare yet pointed. Accompanied only by a pulsing bassline, tambourine, and Hoop’s own backing vocals, it plays like an offbeat anthem for the newly self-reliant (“Clear the way/I’m coming through/No matter what you say”). The whole record, in fact, is injected with a heavy dose of gumption and irreverence, a spirit that, deliberate or not, seems timely in the sociopolitical climate of early 2017. Speaking of sociopolitical, the playful “Simon Says” takes on mindless consumerism with campfire immediacy and a twisted twang (“When you don’t pick the words you choose/Involuntarily advertising for their enterprise”). Meanwhile, “Songs of Old” is a folky chamber piece with arguably the album’s best example of Hoop’s distinctive way around a melody or three within a single, haunting tune. Efficient arrangements mark this track and the rest, so much so that when “Unsaid” arrives with electric guitar riffs, more expansive percussion, and poly-rhythms, it hits like a prism.  “Memories Are Now” is exquisite-sounding while it contends with a songwriter who not only has a few things to get off her chest, but seems to make a call to action. With lyrics that reject “that old device called fear,” some will find the inspiration to be catching.

Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)

Known in certain circles for backing indie singer/songwriter Kevin Morby on his recent tour, guitarist Meg Duffy steps into the spotlight all on her own with “Wildly Idle” (Humble Before The World) , It’s her full-length debut as the band “Hand Habits” . A true bedroom project  or living room project, to be literal, the album was written, performed, recorded, and produced by Meg Duffy. The intimate set takes listeners behind closed doors with lyrics that refer to bathroom sinks and late-night invites. Frequent double-tracking makes Duffy’s melodic but conversational vocal style seem even more lost in thought past bedtime. Meanwhile, her floaty, psych-tinged guitar pop swirls into corners and wraps back around headphones. Tempos are ambling on tracks such as “Flower Glass” (“When I hold you like a flower/Hold you like an hourglass”), a melancholy reflection that, even without the suggestion of the title, sounds like a musical representation of stained glass. Sustained chords, mixed low, provide the glue for layered harmonic guitars that unroll one note at a time in irregular rhythms. Later, the whispered count-off to “Sun Beholds Me” leaves ample time to anticipate the next beat. Even a relatively brighter, brisker tune like “Nite Life” has the leisurely twang of slide guitar, spacy effects, and airy vocals. Three brief “scenes” are spread throughout the track list: “Great LA,” “Cowboy,” and “Time Hole.” Incorporating samples, each one is an atmospheric exercise in texture that relinquishes form, only reinforcing the dreamy, drifting feel of the album.

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The Brian Jonestown Massacre “Dropping Bombs On The Sun” is the final and third of 3 singles from the forthcoming album “Don’t Get Lost” to be released in February 2017. The first track Dropping Bombs On The Sun  features vocals by longtime collaborator Tess Parks, this track gives an idea of the changing rhythms of the Brian Jonestown Massacre for the new album. Of a mellow flow of strings and keyboards, with smoky vocals provided by Tess Parks. Geldenes Herz Menz features Pete Fraser (The Pogues .New Young Pony Club) on saxophone , both Dan Alliare (drums and Ricky Maymi (guitar) from the Brian Jonestown Massacre play on both tracks.

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“Caught In Still Life” is the debut album release from London band Vaults. Whilst not yet a household name the band have been quietly building momentum since signing to Virgin EMI in 2013. The album contains two songs which are very well known; One Last Night featured on the soundtrack to 50 Shades Of Grey and went to No.1 on iTunes in 20 countries. Secondly comes the bands beautiful version of Randy Crawford’s “One Day I’ll Fly Away” as featured in this year’s much anticipated John Lewis Christmas ad. The TV ad was viewed 7 million times in the first 24 hours. Also featured on the album are Cry No More and Premonitions, both of which featured heavily in the Channel 4 drama Glue. For fans of Kate Bush, Florence, London Grammar and Chvrches.

A Pink Sunset for No One

“A Pink Sunset For No One” is the follow-up to “Fantastic Planet” , the 2015 album from guitarist/filmmaker Sarah Lipstates solo project Noveller. While the album contains all of the hallmarks of Lipstate’s cinematic sound, such as gently drifting waves of droning guitars and slightly melancholy atmospheres, there seems to be more definition to her playing this time around, in some aspects.

She hasn’t exactly started writing pop songs, but at times there’s a bit more of a propulsion to her compositions, and the melodies feel more outlined than before. It’s hard to tell exactly what instruments or effects pedals she’s using, since the liner notes don’t reveal any of this information, but there are moments that sound like organs, and others that seem like sampled woodwinds (on closing track “Emergence”). On “Rituals,” there are even shades of vocals peeking out from the detached but swinging rhythm and post-punk-influenced chords. The album’s title track starts calmly, with chiming notes, before louder guitars burst out. While not quite as harshly distorted as some earlier of Novellers works like Red Rainbows, the album demonstrates that Lipstate is still masterful at applying heavier guitar effects at exactly the right moments, elevating the lush, dreamy atmospheres to an exciting next level. Standout track “Trails and Trials” does this as well, and her guitar playing sounds particularly close to early His Name Is Alive on this one. Without getting too gloomy, She creates haunted, mysterious atmospheres on tracks such as “Corridors,” which could easily be the theme to the next big horror or sci-fi series. With this her eighth proper solo album as Noveller,  Lipstate continues to push her otherworldly sound in fascinating new directions.

Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins

Is Chuck Prophet a storyteller who just happens to be a great musician? Or is he a talented songwriter and guitarist who also has a real gift for spinning tales? On 2017’s Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, his 12th studio album, Prophet has managed to strike an ideal balance between the two sides, delivering a tuneful and engaging set that’s full of character sketches with a full complement of heart, soul, honesty, wit, and the details of a recognizable adult life. Prophet is capable of playfully imagining what it would be like to be the star of Nashville and Friday Night Lights (“If I Was Connie Britton”), then sharing the true story of a young man gunned down by the San Francisco police for no clear reason just a few tracks later (“Alex Nieto”). Both songs come off as smart, honest, and thoughtful despite their very different tone, and those adjectives apply to nearly every cut on this album. The current state of music is a recurring theme here, as evidenced by the title tune, “Bad Year for Rock and Roll,” “We Got Up and Played,” and “In the Mausoleum” (the latter an homage to the late Alan Vega of Suicide). But Prophet is just as interested in the lives of people in all sorts of trouble. A single mother and a gunman unexpectedly cross paths in “Killing Machine,” the author ponders the objects of his affection in “Your Skin” and “Coming Out in Code,” the peaks and valleys of romantic relationships are examined in “Open Up Your Heart,” and the Son of God’s consumer preferences get a rundown in “Jesus Was a Social Drinker.” Prophet and his studio band (including Tubes drummer Prairie Prince and co-producers Brad Jones and Matt Winegar on various instruments) give the melodies a rich, wide-ranging sound, and Prophet has rarely been better as a vocalist, finding the right tone on every track. Along with having one of the best titles of recent memory, “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins” confirms that more than 25 years after making his solo debut, Chuck Prophet remains one of America’s strongest songwriters and recording artists, and he’s in great form here.

Outside (Briefly)

Froth have come a long way since their joke-band beginnings, weedy garage rock first album, and their initial foray into shoegaze on their 2014 album Bleak, which showed a great deal of promise with a batch of good songs and an impressively full sound. 2017’s Outside (Briefly) cashes in on that potential and ends up sounding like a great lost shoegaze/dream pop/experimental rock album of the early ’90s. Mixing the guitar overload of bands like My Bloody Valentine, the experimental nature of the Swirlies, and the hazy wistfulness of bands like Slowdive, Froth manage to ingest a ton of influences without sounding in thrall to any of them in particular. Lots of times on albums as stuck in the past as Outside (Briefly) is, the nostalgia factor weighs it down too much, the endless rounds of spot-the-influence make it impossible to actually enjoy the music as it happens, or the listener is so transported back in time that they’d rather listen to something old instead of the music Froth is making. None of that happens here. The band’s leader JooJoo Ashworth never succumbs to hero worship or pastiche. He and his cohorts (guitarist Nick Ventura, drummer Cameron Allen, and bassist Jeremy Katz) mix and match sounds, styles, and approaches like masters, never allowing the album to get predictable or obvious. Tracks like “Passing” defy the listener to pin down exactly what’s happening. It starts off as a raging shoegaze rocker that could have been lifted off an early Slumberland Records 45, then suddenly shifts into a droning Motorik jam where Ashworth and Ventura’s guitars noodle and dance like hippie girls at a Phish concert. After a few minutes of zoning out, the song crashes back into life before ending in a blast of feedback. It’s an exhilarating arrangement and serves notice that the band isn’t about to be pinned down. They can do slow noise rock ballads (“Petals”) that start off sparse and scattered sounding, with Ashworth’s fragile vocals up front, then finish in waves of synth strings and organ swirls or do simple blown-out shoegaze (“Romance Distractions”). They nail both abrasive JAMC-sleek rockers (“New Machine”) and fuzzy indie pop (“Sensitive Girl”) with equal aplomb. Synth pop drones (“Contact”) sound just as good as the songs that mix new wave melodies with noise pop guitars (“Show a Flower a Candle and It Grows”). Basically, everything Ashworth and crew try on Outside (Briefly) works a charm, sounding like the entire history of noisy indie pop wrapped up in one constantly surprising, effortlessly appealing ball of sound. Anyone who has a soft spot for sensitive pop songs played by loud guitars that are run through a ton of effects will want to check the album out. It may not make people forget the past mighty heroes of noise, but a few spins through Outside (Briefly) is enough to make room in the shoegaze/dream pop pantheon for Froth.

Jesca Hoop’s new album “Memories Are Now” wastes no time in making clear its confidence, confrontation, and craftsmanship. The stark and reverberant title track opens the set 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.

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As riveting as it is reflective, the album, produced by the gifted 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 and came into their own. “I saw us like young chicks out of the nest,” she says. “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. “The recordings are quite raw, human and sparse, even unsettling. What I like to call quick fire recording forces you to work in an incredibly focused and instinctive type of way, no second guessing. ”

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Jesca Hoop - Loser edition

Pre-orders are shipping now! Don’t miss out on getting the Robin’s Egg Blue-colored Loser edition vinyl LP while supplies last.  Also, if you happened to miss the duets album, Love Letter For Fire , that we released last year with Jesca and Sam Beam of the band Iron and Wine , you might want to check that out too .

Itchy and curious, “The Lost Sky” grabs my ear in a “where is this going?” kind of way, as the song’s opening verses unfold over minimal, agitated acoustic guitar work and a precise, intermittent bass line. But as the song proceeds I slowly get the idea that where the song is going is where it already is: the ear has to adjust to its edgy open-endedness, its determined lack of solid ground. Symbolic of its restless core is what happens at the end of the (not very chorus-like).

Listen first to how the melody has slowed down and seems at last to move towards resolution; and then, nope, it turns out that the note the ear is waiting for is not an ending but a beginning: the resolving note starts the next verse and off we go again.

Other things begin to anchor me as I listen, starting first and foremost with Hoop’s harmonies, which kick in on the song’s incisive question “Why would you say those words to me if you could not follow through?” The narrator is a brokenhearted lover, and as the song plucks along my heart warms with the understanding that it only ever takes a talented songwriter to render the familiar unfamiliar. Here we get propulsive but diligent music, evocative lyrics, and then, yes, those increasingly startling and satisfying harmonies and there I am, embraced yet again, with gratitude, by the potency of song. It’s a nice place to be right about now.

Born in California, singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop moved to Manchester (UK) in 2010. “The Lost Sky” is from her forthcoming album, Memories Are Now, coming out in February on Sub Pop Records

“The Lost Sky” from the 2/10/17 Jesca Hoop album Memories Are Now

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Despite their disparate backgrounds, Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) and Jesca Hoop have managed to make an album that’s both hushed and harmonious, one that finds this, their first dual effort, blurring the lines between the sedate and the seductive. Beam’s no stranger to this approach; his efforts with Iron & Wine generally find him dwelling in more cerebral realms. Hoop, on the other hand, has yet to establish an identity with any such distinction; four albums on,.

Happily then, Hoop’s recognition factor is likely to climb significantly. Beam may be the marquee name here, but it’s Hoop’s supple harmonies that give this effort its sense of purpose. Most of these songs rarely rise above a whisper, their dreamy designs and precious approach suggesting a nocturnal feel that’s consistent with a nu-folk noir. Songs like “The Lamb You Lost,” “We Two Are A Moon,” “Every Songbird Says” and “Bright Lights and Goodbyes” keep that consistency intact. Likewise, Hoop’s focused take on “Soft Place To Land” and Beam’s immediate follow-up, “Sailor to Siren,” suggest each of these artists might qualify as dimly-lit folkies if that was indeed their desire.

From the 8/5/16 Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop digital single

Jesca Hoop and Iron & Wine's Sam Beam

Without even listening to this record,  Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop are perfect complements for each other.

“Neither of us had written a song with anyone else, so we both were like, ‘How do we do this?’” Beam says. “Because our own styles are fixed things, it was kind of like, ‘What’s that going to be like when you put those two together?’”

“It was like walking around a forest in the dark,” adds Hoop. “A nice healthy forest.” “With one leg,” adds Beam.

Both Sam Beam, under his stage name Iron & Wine, and Hoop have found success in the past decade as idiosyncratic solo artists in a region of the musical universe somewhere close to Americana and folk, but often experimenting with rock, country, pop and even electronic music, and always penning interesting, ear-catching lyrics.

“There’s a song of hers called ‘Moon Rock Needle’ that I discovered,” says Beam. “The first line is, ‘There’s food at your house, let’s go to your house.’ After that I was hooked! And I just got enamored with her voice and her songwriting.

“For a while I had this seed of an idea for a project of duets,” he continues. “I like duets. I like the conversation element of it; you can have a monologue song that you’ve written for yourself, have two people sing it and it becomes a very different song. I thought we might sound really great together, so I asked her to come on tour.”

Jesca Hoop accepted, going on tour with Iron & Wine, performing as the opening act. But it was Hoop who made the first move to record music together. “I took a chance and asked him,” she says. “When we started singing together, it was just the most natural thing. It didn’t take much trying to find common ground.”

To join them on that common ground, they enlisted musicians, Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, multi-instrumentalist Rob Burger (John Zorn, Lucinda Williams), violist Eyvind Kang and former Soul Coughing bassist Sebastian Steinberg. Together these musicians helped to create a nocturnal, lazy river for Beam and Hoop’s vocals to swim around and harmonize in.

“It’s all acoustic, but there are some songs that sound straight-up synthetic in a strange way,” Beam says. “There are some musical flourishes, but it’s more of a melodic, vocal record.”

The finished product, “Love Letter for Fire”, puts Hoop and Beam’s vocals and lyrics front and center for the listener to decipher.

“The recording process was a fluid joy,” says Hoop, “but the writing process was a lot of stumbling around in the dark. But you know when you’re in the dark and your eyes eventually adjust, then you can see? That’s what it was like.”

“It was a lot of emailing back and forth,” says Beam. “We would send poems, trade lines, just do things to get things started, and just have fun. Then we would get together and do tours, and hash things out across the table, because there’s a lot of nuances that don’t get translated over emails.”

On many of the songs, Beam and Hoop seem to be addressing each other as lovers. When asked about the possible discomfort of writing and singing a love song as platonic friends, Hoop quickly replies, “Have you ever been in love? Yes? Then let’s write a song about it right now. I’m sure there’s something you could say about it, because it’s something we can all relate to, and there’s endless material to draw from. From our own experiences, to the experiences of our parents, brothers and sisters, our friends and family.”

“We’ve both written love songs,” adds Beam, “but to have someone else’s experiences and thoughts come into play in your own songwriting. … I’d send her a line, and then she’d send me a line and I’d be like, ‘Oh, I never thought about that.’ I had to adjust. As a writer it’s fun, and when you have a man and woman singing together you automatically have a sexual tension whether you’re talking about love or not.”

“We still have different opinions on what [the songs] mean,” says Hoop. “I mean, every time you sing them, they say something different to you.”

“That’s kind of like a conversation though, isn’t it?” says Beam. “Most of the times you have a conversation with someone and you sort of think you know what they’re trying to say.” “Exactly,” says Hoop.

From the new album released on 15th April 2016 Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop album “Love Letter for Fire”

Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop's new album, Love Letter For Fire, comes out April 15.

It’s been 15 years since Sam Beam released his first collection of whispery, low-definition solo recordings, recorded at home under the name Iron & Wine. Back then, it would have been difficult to imagine how many directions Beam’s music would travel: Iron & Wine’s records have evolved into lavish exercises in horn-laden Technicolor sprawl, while Beam has most recently set aside time for album-length collaborations with Band Of Horses’ Ben Bridwell and now singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop.

Hoop, who’s long deserved more attention, proves an excellent foil for Beam’s lived-in warmth: Her versatile voice is equally suited to lilting harmonies and the more distinct and esoteric lead work she puts into “Chalk It Up To Chi.” That’s one of the 13 songs on Love Letter For Fire, on which the two singers stretch and prod at the boundaries of what they usually do. Take “Welcome To Feeling,” which opens the album with 60 seconds of perfectly packed vocal harmonies and strings: It’s an all-too-brief sketch with a painting’s worth of flourishes.

Love Letter For Fire was, at least in part, inspired by the pair’s desire to make songs that function as conversations rather than soliloquies, and their work backs that up. In the gorgeous “Every Songbird Says,” Hoop and Beam trade bits of the lyric rapidly, occasionally blending their voices as they build to a cooing earworm of a chorus. With the help of producer Tucker Martine and a smart, subtle band, the two achieve a fine balance — of songwriting sensibilities, of time in the spotlight — in the service of songs that feel at once fresh and timeless.

Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) Teams With Jesca Hoop for Duets Album and Tour

Sam Beam aka Iron & Wine, is releasing an album of duets with Jesca Hoop. Love Letter for Fire is out April 15th on Sub Pop Records. They’re also taking the record on tour across North America, starting in May. Above, listen to first single “Every Songbird Says”; scroll down for the dates and Sam Beam’s album cover photo.
The album features contributions from Wilco’s Glenn Kotche (drums, percussion), Robert Burger (keys), Eyvind Kang (violin, viola), Sebastian Steinberg (bass), and Edward Rankin-Parker (cello). Tucker Martine produced, recorded, and mixed the record. Richard Dodd mastered it.
Last week, Beam debuted two new songs  “Kicking the Old Rain” and “Thomas County Law.” Those are from a forthcoming release, not Love Letter for Fire.

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Long before the sincerity trends, the legions of bearded lumbersexuals and the tear-stained folk band explosion…there was Sam Beam.  Armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and an occasional female accompaniment, Iron & Wine reignited our culture’s reverance for the wayward folk artist.  The project has grown and evolved for well over a decade now and still going strong, but 2016 sees Beam carving a new path with fellow singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop.

Hoop, who has already collaborated with the Iron and Wine project before, adds the perfect amount of harmony and vibrato to Beam’s hushed vocal delivery. First single Every Songbird Says is as easy on the ears as the crackle of a campfire or the wind blowing through trees overhead.  Violins and pianos join the two in a sweeping 3 /12 minutes of chamber pop suitable for any Nick Drake b-side.  If this ain’t an insta-buy, I don’t know what is.

“Every Songbird Says” from the 4/15/16 Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop album Love Letter for Fire , Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) announce a new album of duets – ‘Love Letter For Fire’ out April 15 on Sub Pop Records / Black Cricket Recording Co.
Listen to the first track “Every Songbird Says”