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 Blake Mills back to produce, 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 likewise free-spirited but more rustic duet album with 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 polyrhythms, it hits like a prism. With any due credit to Mills, who not only produced but shares instrument duty here, 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. Trivia of note: none other than Fiona Apple plays harmonica on "Cut Connection." ~ Marcy Donelson
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