Though this is her third album, Jesca Hoop is still a relative unknown to many music listeners. What is known, and should who aren’t familiar should know, is that Hoop has hobnobbed with some of the biggest names in the biz. She’s cut her teeth by working with the iconic Tom Waits (for whose kids she was the nanny for), Peter Gabriel (who sang backup for) and Guy Garvey of Elbow, the latter which led to her moving to Manchester.
All that being said, The House That Jack Built is an interesting exploration of a new sound and a sharp left turn from her earlier work. Gone are the folky arrangements that made her a coffeehouse favorite and in is a fresh electro-pop sound that challenges both the singer and her audience. “Born Here,” the album’s first track, features heavy drums and synths rule the day here, while Hoop’s vocals channel Florence Welch, and that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, you could say that this her first crack at making a radio friendly song. It’s catchy, fun and easy to sing-along with, which are all hallmarks of a good tune.
Songs like the quirky “Ode To Banksy,” the darker “Dig This Record” (where she sings “Dig it out of the basement, out of the discard and onto the record player”) and “Hospital (Win Your Love),” which blends funky pop (think of the ‘80s variety, like Cyndi Lauper, who she references in the song) with her keen lyrical ability of observation, are as eclectic of a group of songs that you’ll find. There are different moods, tempos and music on all three tracks. But what makes these songs so interesting is that Hoop really goes for it and takes risks that she didn’t take on her earlier material.
When Hoop does take a step back, like on the title track, which is a reflection on her father’s death, she makes the darkness sound beautiful. Here, she peels back the electronica that dominated the album, to seemingly go back to her roots, backed by single bluesy guitar. Lyrics like "Purple Hearts/And racing cars/And the words for her you wrote.” This is one of the few moments where things feel so stripped down that you don’t feel like Hoop has completely abandoned her roots in order to for a bigger sound.
The House That Jack Built clocks in a shade under 40 minutes and with 10 songs, it makes for an easy listen. Sometimes it isn’t easy for an artist to stray away from his or her comfort zone (though “D.N.R.” is reminiscent of her earlier work), but often times challenges can be for the best. It sure is in this case.Follow us on Twitter @bestnewbandscom @danielkohn and Like us on Facebook BestNewBands.com