Hey, we’ve got enough songs for a 2017 sidebar now!
Joshua Copperman: A sparse folk song with urgency and drive — Hoop’s melody is arguably more like a flow than anything, even against the acoustic backdrop. There’s an intensity to this song that makes it not just lovely and gothic, but mesmerizing, and that’s largely due to both the lyrics (“And when we said the words ‘I love you’/I said them ’cause they are true/Why would you say those words to me/If you could not follow through?”) and the hymnal vocal arrangements. The closest counterpart is the Staves, who kick a similar amount of ass. But the difference is that the Staves are ethereal, and this particular song is musically grounded in reality. Everything in this song sounds intimate, as if this increasing amount of Jesca Hoops are whispering in your ear the whole song. The part that really seals it for me is at the end of the verses, with “…and when we sAID” — it comes earlier than expected, abruptly stopping the song before going into an equally haunting bridge section. Producer Blake Mills, who also worked on Laura Marling’s Semper Femina and Alabama Shakes’ Sound And Color, continues to deliver, heightening the intimacy of Hoop and her background vocals to nearly surreal levels.
Alfred Soto: “Why would you say those words to me/If you could not follow through?” is the eternal question, isn’t it, and Jesca Hoop’s staccato melody and spooky multitracked vocals find new ways of posing it — imagine Conor Oberst playing with Laura Marling’s talent for weighing words.
Ryo Miyauchi: While “The Lost Sky” loops its cycle with diminishing returns, the kiss-off of a chorus remains the song’s saving grace. I keep wanting the song to come back to it sooner and sooner. Now, only if it had more bite with each return, showing some sign Jesca Hoop learned something, anything, after tripping up on the same problem.
Katherine St Asaph: Jesca Hoop’s debut album Kismet was among the earliest albums I bought, before I knew my own taste and knew to be wary of purple PR rain like this gush by Tom Waits: “Jesca Hoop’s music is like a four-sided coin. She’s an old soul, like a good witch, a black pearl, or a red moon. Her music is like swimming in a lake at night.” (What does that even describe? Tales of Us?) I bounced off the album hard, it languished on the hard drive with the Noe Venable and Thea Gilmore and Camille records I’d also bought, and though Hoop’s released albums steadily, “The Lost Sky” is the first I’ve heard from her since 2008. Where Kismet suffered from a garish eagerness to please, songs like “Out the Back Door” and “Intelligentactile 101” that sound exuberant exactly once, “The Lost Sky” is far more subdued, deceptively so. What begins as a vaguely haunted acoustic track turns circular, repeats itself, abandons all niceties. The result is something like Mandalay’s “All My Sins“: obsessive, seething anger that slowly becomes less repressed and more chilling. It makes me reassess the debut despite myself. Makes me believe Waits, even.
Will Adams: “The Lost Sky” creeps slowly at first, like a spider climbing up its own thread, but then the chorus hits, and every word Hoop spins becomes a dagger. Which each repetition of the central accusation — “The bitter burden of a signal run cold” — the harmonies mount until the web is complete. Alluring as it is chilling.
Jonathan Bradley: The invocations of Sirius are apt: the black distances in “The Lost Sky” are astronomical and suggestive of unfathomable emptiness. Jesca Hoop plucks her chords carefully, strung over the abyss, she grasps for emotional surety and gets only uncertainty and dry-mouthed trepidation in return.
Claire Biddles: Jesca Hoop conjures ominous drama here that makes me wonder the fate of the lover who has abandoned her. Perhaps it’s already irreversible — the perpetual wandering, both lyrically described and evoked by the rolling phrasing, makes me think of stories narrated by supernatural beings, endlessly walking the earth recounting obsessive love affairs. She’s the descendant of Kate Bush’s embodiment of Cathy in “Wuthering Heights,” returning to the place where she was left alone — “Too long I roam in the night” becomes “I walk the dark star, the lost sky,” both women existing between the ground and the air, the real and the imagined, coming in and out of focus, never quite resolving.