Following two albums for Sub Pop that included a collaboration with Iron & Wine's Sam Beam (Love Letter for Fire) and the Blake Mills-produced Memories Are Now, Jesca Hoop continues to expand and sharpen her distinctive indie folk on her Memphis Industries debut, Stonechild. It was recorded with longtime PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish, who has also produced albums for the likes of Jenny Hval, Aldous Harding, and This Is the Kit. The latter's Kate Stables and Rozi Plain are among the guests on Stonechild, a set that puts a premium on chromatic melodies, crisp vocal harmonies, and spare arrangements to the point of sometimes evoking Renaissance vocal music. With lyrics like "Hope lives with darkness, he sleeps in her bed," the delicate "All Time Low" spotlights Hoop's articulate vocals and beguiling circular melody by supporting them with unobtrusive plucked guitar punctuated with bent notes. Eventually, what sounds like pedal piano and Hoop's layered vocal harmonies are the only additional accompaniment to the song's cautionary allegory. A more dramatic track is lead single "Shoulder Charge," one of two songs featuring the harmony vocals of Lucius' Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe. Its mix of electric and acoustic instrumentation has a more atmospheric presence leading into a full-throated climax midway through, with rallying lyrics suggesting that empathy is contagious ("Nothing one can go through has not been shared by two"). Opening with a field recording of children at play, another harmonic highlight, "Outside Eden," is a duet with Kate Stables. The album takes into account the personal politics of the late 2010s, with other songs addressing subjects like patriarchy and misogyny ("Old Fear of the Father") and white supremacy ("Red White and Black"), all with persistent elegance and gumption. Poised and spacious, warm and inclusive, and highly provoked, Stonechild is another memorable addition to Hoop's discography.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson