I'm not normally big on the whole singer/songwriter thing - bands over solo artists is how I roll most of the time, keeping it collective tends to prevent things from getting too self-absorbed and ensuring maximum rockitutde at all times. There are a few notable exceptions though especially when chicks are concerned, preferably of the slightly bonkers variety and capable of getting though a record without moaning about their ex-boyfriends all the time. Jesca Hoop fits into the Kate Bush/Björk/Tori Amos bracket, a lady with a vivid imagination and enough musical knowhow to translate her weirder ideas into pop songs. I wasn't aware of Miss Hoop prior to this record but her blurb states that she ran away from a Mormon upbringing to float around the US countryside for years before she starting making records and hanging around with the likes of Tom Waits and Peter Gabriel, all of which sounds like pretty good preparation for becoming a cool singer (it certainly makes her more interesting than the next fucking Sylvia Young graduate to bag a five-album deal). 'The house that Jack built' keeps it upbeat for the most part, kicking off with the anthemic one-two of 'Born to' and 'Pack Animal' which lean further towards folk than punk yet somehow sound even more immediate and lively without the guitar crunch. Elsewhere she veers more into Suzanne Vega territory (specifically her early 90s '99.9°F' stuff) with added electronic twinges on 'Peacemaker' and even takes in the more upbeat side of PJ Harvey à la '50ft Queenie' on 'Dig this record', each time falling short of outright imitation and keeping her own take on proceedings. Jesca's biggest strength on here is that she's not afraid to write accessible material and doesn't let her forays into folk rock, electronic bam-thwok and acoustic musing take her too far away from four-minute pop songs that are as instantly memorable as they are inherently fascinating. Her ideas roam free on here without ever falling into the 'Wooo look how kooky and crazy I am' bracket, channelling the same vibe that you got the first time you heard 'Hyperballad', 'Wuthering Heights' or that Tori Amos song about God needing a woman to look after him. The best example of this is the unfeasibly great 'Hospital (to win your love' which extols the virtues of accidental injury in securing some much-needed sympathy booty - this is the sort of stuff that will have you bouncing off the walls with sheer delight and deserves to be number one in every country in the world without further ado. When she does take it down a notch and gets acoustic on us for the title track (apparently about the death of her dad) it's devastatingly effective and really quite touching, managing to avoid over-sentimentalising a decidedly sensitive theme ('It's not enough/to know you through them'). Her other revelatory moment is 'Ode to Banksy', what sounds like a homage to a similar mindset of mischief and creativity and suggests that she's got her cultural radar pointed firmly in the right direction. This is apparently her third record and if the other two are anywhere near this good then it's surely only a matter of time before she goes stratospheric - this shit is way to good to stay secret. File 'The house that Jack Built' alongside 'The Kick Inside', 'Début' and 'Little Earthquakes' in your 'breakthrough records by fascinating vixens' playlist and feast on the wealth of intriguing pop gems on display here. This is one to come out of the genuine leftfield and win new converts on every listen, a really pleasant surprise and a window into the world of someone we'll surely be hearing more from in the not too distant future.
Check out : 'Hospital (to win your love)', just the best song in the fucking world right now.