Jesca Hoop will win you over with a word. At least, that’s how it went for me. I came across her second album, Hunting My Dress, a couple of years ago, and have been looking for it ever since. Last week, I found it sitting on the shelf at the library, like I hadn’t just been wracking the whole of the West Coast for it. Here is the song that started the search, called “Whispering Light.” The lyrics can be found here. (The word that won me over: “Revealer.”)
Her music is gripping and haunting, helped in large part by that accent, which is impossible to pin down (a result, it turns out, of it being entirely fabricated), and the remarkable figure she cuts onstage. She is unapologetically eccentric, which my past posts may have revealed is a musical trait near and dear to my heart. Reading about Jesca is a surreal experience; her speech loops in and out of history, past lives, magic, tragedy, communes with nature, and an incessant need to sing. Her past lends itself well to storytelling, certainly. Raised in California by Mormon parents who were also both singers, Jesca left the church at 14, choosing instead to “have faith in people.” Then, because this is how life goes in California, she was hired by Tom Waits to take care of his children. He gave her an in to the music industry, and once gave her maybe the coolest compliment I’ve ever heard: “Her music is like going swimming in a lake at night.”
Famous associations aside, though, her career has been sustained by the product she offers—her voice, which set a record for listener requests on KCRW in 2003, before anyone knew who she was. Her accent comes from a place that doesn’t exist, she can perfectly imitate birdsong, her lyrics are dreamlike and almost outrageously imaginative, and she looks like a resident of Narnia and Pan’s Labyrinth all at once. I’ve learned all these things about her, but I’ll put Hunting My Dress back on and forget it instantly. The story Jesca Hoop tells with her music is bigger than real life. And, to quote Liz Lemon: I want to go to there.