ALBUM REVIEW: Jesca Hoop “The House That Jack Built”

Three years is a long time in terms of musical trends, and many an artist returns to the fold after time out to find that their sound is deemed no longer relevant. However, Californian born, Manchester based singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop is an act that defies trends. While her sound has a distinct folk-pop base, it easily surfs between genres and is all the more relevant for its diversity.

As Hoop returns with “The House That Jack Built”, her third album and the follow-up to 2009’s “Hunting My Dress”, it is clear that Hoop has a bit more bite in her belly as she mixes attitude and openness in equal measure. The delicate “Pack Animal” epitomises the mix, with a pretty melody matched by strong, forthright lyrics.

While her earlier releases more than showcased Hoop’s abilities to pen a pretty ditty, “The House That Jack Built” suggests that Hoop has been paying attention the some of Scandinavia’s finest, with Bjork’s eccentricity channelled for the romp “Peacemaker”, Kate Havnevik’s verve for “Hospital (Win Your Love)”, Ane Brun’s heartfelt storytelling for “The House That Jack Built” and Olof Arnald’s ponderings on “D.N.R”. All these points of reference are delivered with panache and individuality, those comparisons can be drawn, Hoop is in a league of her very own.

While all the aforementioned help to form the near perfect ten track “The House That Jack Built”, Hoop really shines on the more playful numbers. While “Ode To Banksy” is a proper earworm, its sugary sweet delivery never nears the irritating. Equally noteworthy is the soulfully direct “Dig This Record”, which should it ever be released to radio, would be a strong contendor for the number 1 spot.

“The House That Jack Built” may not be Hoop’s most original effort, but that is far from a detracting factor. A tender, touching beautiful record which mixes colours to paint a perfect picture. Hoop is hot property right now, and if “The House That Jack Built” is a taster of what is still to come from Miss Hoop, then album number 4 excites me already…

Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jeremy Williams

WIN! Signed Kate Havnevik Albums!

Norwegian songstress Kate Havnevik is back! As current single “Disobey” demonstrates, Havnevik may have taken her time in delivering a follow-up to “Melankton”, but by no means was it through lack of capability. “Disobey” is beyond brilliant and epitomises everything that is right with latest album “YOU”. To celebrate the release, Kate Havnevik has kindly given The Kaje a handful of signed albums for us to give out to our lucky readers. If you would like to get your hands on one, simply tell us the title of the closing track on “YOU”. Email your answers to by June 20th.

The Kaje talks YOU to Kate Havnevik

Having conquered hearts through numerous song slots on Grey’s Anatomy, The O.C. and The West Wing, Havnevik is all too aware that TV brings you in to the hearts and more importantly the heads of a wanting audience, Norwegian songstress Kate Havnevik must have counted her lucky stars when Apple contacted her to feature her long-awaited sophomore release “YOU” on their global advert for the iCloud. Like many others, The Kaje‘s ears propped firmly up as her gripping vocal struck the right chord and so we are thrilled to have finally caught up for a chat…

It has been half a decade since “Melankton”, was there a conscious decision for you to wait before unleashing “YOU”?

No conscious decision at all, life does not always go as planned and I have spent the years in between the two albums writing, touring, moving between London, New York and now Norway. There has been lots going on.

How would you say your sound has evolved during the time away?

The sound evolves all the time, but I also think it is the need to move on and not make the same album twice. The need to try slightly different things.

How have your intentions and ambitions altered?

I think my ambitions have changed from thinking things will build up to one thing happening, to thinking of a long career as a whole. Things are happening all the time and keeping the music alive and moving forward.

What would you say are the defining sonic attributes of “YOU”?

Electronic mixed with organic sounds. A lot of pace and energy. Its a very varied album, but with voice and lyric in focus all through the record.

And the overriding themes?

Relationships between all sorts of people, lovers, siblings, parents and strangers.

“Disobey” is the second single to be launched from the record-can you tell us about the song…

It’s a playful song about breaking the norm and the ‘rules’ our parents and teachers give us from when we are young. Trying out things that are unusual or not considered ‘the safe thing to do’, taking risks and discovering the world for ourselves.

Sometimes being a bit cheeky or misbehavin’ a bit isn’t so bad or damaging and can lead to some fun and liveliness …

What makes a good single in your eyes?

A song that is easy to enjoy in one way or another and that you can listen to many times without getting sick of it. But there are no rules really, sometimes there are songs that people think are the least likely to be a successful single that make it to no.1. Songs like the “Mad World” cover by Gary Jules for instance. Beautiful!

How did you settle on “Disobey”?

I personally think the song is a lot of fun, has a good groove and sounds a bit different. It’s a bit cheeky, but has good energy. I really like the trumpet riff that goes through the song, performed by Arve Henriksen, an amazing Norwegian trumpeter.

I used to think “Disobey” was my ‘bootylicious’ song. I always performed a little booty dance to that song a home.

What other songs are potential singles from “YOU”?

Oh, in a way sooo many. We do different singles in different territories. In Norway “MYYM” was the first single and was playlisted on a big national radio station for 13 weeks.

“THINK AGAIN” and “SHOW ME LOVE” have also had heavy rotation in Norway so there are several songs that are potential singles.

Do you have any personal favourites on the album?

Personal favourites are “Castaway”, “Tears In Rain” and “Disobey”…. I don’t know why but they are very close to me!

You have worked with Guy Sigsworth on the album-how did the collaboration come about?

Me and Guy have know eachother and worked together for a long time .Guy also produced half of “Melankton” and this time I wanted him to do the whole album so I could focus on the writing. We ended up writing a lot together and I was present it the studio during the creation of every sound, so the whole album is pretty much a great collaboration. I really trust Guy’s taste and decisions, I feel in safe hands.

Is there anyone else you are very keen to work with?

Regarding producers I think it would interesting to work with Nigel Godrich or Jon Brion, but I am also trying to become a better producer myself and I absolutely love working with Guy Sigsworth. Apart from that I would love to write a song with Matt Bellamy from Muse, they have great songs with lots of energy! And I would love to sing a duet with Canadian artist Patrick Watson (listen to his song “The Great Escape”, it’s gorgeous!)

With the new record now ready for public consumption, are you planning to take the music on the road?

I am planning to start touring this autumn, I am currently writing a film score, doing a few collaborations and writing new songs and that will keep me busy this summer.

How would “YOU” have to be adapted for the live forum?

I have had a few shows with the songs here in Norway and it works really well with a band, drums, cello, bass, vibraphone, and me on piano and guitar, and some electronic sounds from the laptop. I also do some solo shows with me on guitar/piano/vocals and the laptop with some sounds. I really enjoy both depending on the size of stage.

Is it musicianship or performance that drive you?

I think it is very much musicianship and the urge to write that drives me , thats kind of why I started singing in the first place, because I wrote songs.

I do love the performance as well, but in the beginning it was hard for me as I was very introvert and shy and also a perfectionist. As soon as I was a bit easier on myself and stopped caring so much if something wasn’t perfect I enjoyed live performance much more, now I think it’s great to perform live, and I am so fond of my fans and the audience as they participate so much during the show. Maybe shouting out a song they would like to hear or something. It’s very much a give a take .

What are your hopes for the record?

I hope people will discover it and enjoy it and that it will have a long life. People are still discovering “Melankton” for the first time.

I have already been lucky enough to have the “YOU” album cover featured in a world wide iPhone-iCloud TV advert so hopefully people will check it out, and if they like it spread the word.

The songs have been rotated a lot of norwegian national radio, and indie UK and US radio, so I am very pleased people enjoy the songs. Two of the songs ‘Halo’ and bonus track ‘Grace’ have also been featured in TV-series Grey’s Anatomy.

And have you started thinking about album 3 as yet?

I am currently writing and recording the 3rd album, I have so much unreleased material and this 3rd album will almost be a part 2 of “YOU”, and it will be called “&I”. They belong together, hand in hand. That is why I am not waiting too long after “YOU” to release it.

“You” is out now.

Interview by Jeremy Williams

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