Jesca Hoop is issuing advice to upcoming musicians. “Don’t tell the audience every time you do something wrong,” the California-born, Manchester-based singer-songwriter sages suggests.
It would appear that she’s leading by bad example, having already pointed out when she hit her guitar on the mic and tripped over her in-line tuner. Such minor mishaps could throw a lesser artist but Hoop, on the last night of her tour in support of fifth album Memories Are Now, turns them into performance.
It’s a theatrical self-assurance that she also brings to her songs, which are a deceptively simple blend of alt-folk and pop. The title track of her latest release is a case in point, its staccato minimalism continually building and pulling back as the tempo slightly shifts. The awkward rhythm on ‘Havoc In Heaven’ meanwhile twists into a groggy waltz half-way through.
These continual shifts create a sense of unease and restlessness that’s also present in her lyrics. In common with This Is The Kit she brings poetic turns of phrase to murder ballads (the atmospheric ‘Tulip’), literary adaptations (the unusually dark and rock based ‘Peacemaker’ is inspired by an Aristophanes play), and twisted fairy tales that seem to derive from real life events (the stripped down ‘Hunting My Dress’).
It’s a restive creativity that means she’s not content to just operate within the confines of folk. Her three-piece band, which includes Shearwater’s Lucas Oswald, bring a heaviness to the pop-blues ‘Dig This Record’ while the solo acapella ‘Storms Make Grey The Sea’ positions her as a torch singer.
The song closes both the set and promotional duties for Memories Are Now, offering intriguing possibilities about where her muse may take her next.