With the opening track on her latest release, Jesca Hoop has got a bona-fide pop hit on her hands. Born To sees Tom Waits’ former nanny at her most beguiling and infectious. Check the guitars and mandolins as they pick and reverberate against the tweeter, all atop the fast-footed rhythm. As for the melody, well it soars to new heights as Hoop wails “I was born to” repeatedly.
However, if you’re not good with heights you might want to look away now. You are, after all, standing on the precipice of quality pop, and, as much of The House that Jack Built shows, it’s a long way down.
OK, Pack Animal might break your fall with its gentle sway, on the Suzanne Vega blueprint. But Peacemaker is Hoop taking her obscure lyrics to new levels. There is probably meaning in there somewhere, but her up-close whisper can’t obscure the lack of melody, and the subtle vocoder section, where she closes with “fuck me babe”, verges on pretentious. And talking of pretentious, how about calling a song Ode to Banksy?
Hoop doesn’t seem to have her own identity and too often ends up sounding like the embodiment of several female singer/songwriters. I can hear the aforementioned Vega, moments of Tori Amos and the emotional awareness of Fiona Apple. It makes for a record too often plagued by cliché. And though the quieter moments, like the title track or the sultry and chanting power within Deeper Devastation, offer more insight in Hoop’s inner strength, there is a severe lack of originality and memorable hooks.