Jesca Hoop – Undress

UndressOnce more Jesca Hoop has opened up her arms to the world of Pledge Music and proved herself worthy of early devotion. Having already financed The Complete Kismet Acoustic through the crow-funding website, at the end of last year she set her sights on an acoustic and “open” space for sophomore album Hunting My Dress to brew. The project was successfully funded by February 2014, and the fate of the Californian singer songwriter’s appropriately titled Undress sealed. It comes in the wake of 2012's stunning original album The House That Jack Built. While it's equally gorgeous, it's also very different.

First and foremost, this is not a reinvention of Hoop’s 2009 release Hunting My Dress, nor a continuation of her dive into experimental folk. Undress falls closer to a live album, albeit lacking a participating audience and with a few other distinct differences. The addition of guest vocals proves a highlight, pairing Hoop with the likes of Sam Beam from Iron & Wine (“Haunting My Dress”), Guy Garvey from Elbow (“Murder of Birds”), and Willy Mason (“Whispering Light”), who in particular provides an impressively raw and evocative contribution. Beam’s input is also noteworthy, transporting the track closer to the traditional folk line than Jesca's music has ever ventured before. Elsewhere, Jesca’s sister Carissa Hoop and Erika Wennerstorm from Heartless Bastards join the chorus of “Feast of the Heart”, failing to make their own impression on the song, but nevertheless adding to it by way of harmonic layering. Wennerstorm makes a bigger impact on "Tulip", lending a vocal that's starkly different to Hoop's.

Undress was recorded on the long and winding road of Jesca’s travels, emulating her troubadour existence while charming its way into the softly spoken, campfire inspired bracket of acoustic music. Hunting My Dress was arguably an obvious candidate for such an acoustic interpretation, and none of these songs stray too far from their original path. “Four Dreams” is perhaps the most different; stripping away layers of electronica to reveal its hollow yet evocative core. Thanks to this self-described “wooden sound”, ultimately it’s Jesca’s voice that shines through in the production. Stripped of studio intervention, the music allows Hoop to flourish in her own light, drawing attention to the beauty of her chords.

When we reviewed The Complete Kismet Acoustic, we summarised that the album was a good one, but its audience should be limited to pre-existing fans. With Undress, Hoop has overcome this exclusivity to present a solid and intimate affair. A charming effort and one to watch out for at the end of the year.

Release: 24th March 2014, Pledge Music

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