You’ll know whether this is an album for you within about sixty seconds of pressing play on the title track which opens ‘Memories Are Now’. Hoop’s tremendous voice is front and centre, a bassline and some gentle multi-tracking the only other ingredients used to set out the stall of her fourth solo album proper. It’s a captivating piece of music that has gone on every compilation I’ve made this year and I’ve yet to have a complaint. And there’s plenty more where that came from.
The beautiful artwork is a hint that something special will be found in the grooves of this album. It’s tempting to draw some parallels with the wilfully outré work of Tom Waits on several tracks, but I always find myself wondering if I’m drawn to such comparisons because of the tremendous detail that Hoop was a nanny for his children. There’s hints of Joanna Newsom through First Aid Kit and plenty in-between across ‘Memories Are Now’, unusual arrangements failing to obscure real melodic beauty. It seemed to arrive to a mixed critical response, with many reviewers finding it something of a mixed bag but I’ve considered it a joy from start to finish since the turn of the year.
‘Cut Connection’ starts in conventional fashion before reaching a confrontational chorus where Hoop’s voice overloads the microphone on the vowels of the song’s title, while ‘Songs Of Old’ sounds like vintage folk, beamed in from fifty years ago. The central refrain of ‘Animal Kingdom Chaotic’ will be unintentionally chilling to those who voted Remain and ‘Pegasi’ will be, as Alexis Petridis pointed out in his review at the time, uncannily, hauntingly familiar to Judee Sill fans. Along with that rather special title track, the other standout moment in ‘The Lost Sky’, which is driven by a fidgety intensity that seems to invoke the gloaming. It’s a spectacularly atmospheric, occasionally baffling record that is quite sincerely spellbinding.