You would think that there were enough kooky female singer-songwriters to go around. But while Jesca Hoop undoubtedly sometimes sounds similar to Bjork, Bat For Lashes, Regina Spektor and so on, somehow her own quirks come to the fore making her a very different and special proposition.

Hoop’s back story is as starry as her music. Born into a strongly Mormon family, she sang four-part harmony folk songs with her siblings, before later getting a job as a nanny for the children of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan. Clearly, Hoop was always destined to go on to make music. Waits has since said her music is like going swimming in a lake at night, a description that is as apt as it is evocative.

Hoop’s second record, Hunting My Dress, is a more cohesive body of work than her eclectic debut, Kismet. Where Kismet often spread itself too thinly across the ground, Hunting My Dress homes in on Hoop’s strengths and develops her own recognisable sound more fully than before. In short, this is the record that will announce Hoop’s arrival.

Ironically, Hoop is at her best when she tones down the unusualness and plays it straight. Feast of the Heart is deliciously dark, guitars groan around Hoop’s vocals and a violent shuffling rhythm gives the impression of being in a scary forest.

That earthiness is at the middle of all of Hoop’s work. It seems somehow natural and authentic, but still with a mildly frightening edge. Hoop is one of those rare artists that seem to be musicians by fate rather than by a particular desire or need or even greed.

Occasionally it’s a bit much. Four of Dreams is unbearably upbeat and wholesome with its twangy guitars more irritating than charming. Rarer still is when Hoop fails to restrain her vocals within a range that can be heard and enjoyed by human ears. She strays dangerously high on Murder of Birds, but otherwise controls her wandering voicebox well.

Those twangy guitars are present throughout the record, almost as if Seasick Steve had wandered into the studio with his one-string wonder. They are often an unwelcome distraction from Hoop’s honeyed tones, but when they stay low in the mix, in their rightful place, any agitation disappears. But to dwell on these minor issues would be churlish, for Hunting My Dress is, for the most part, an excellent album from a rising talent who is destined to be a star.

This review was written for Muso’s Guide.

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