Jacko Hooper is an artist who writes music with his heart on his sleeve. This honest quality has seen his songs speak to so many listeners. His new album Respair is another example of this characteristic in action. It also features some of his finest work to date. Its creation began in 2020 when the world changed, and other life situations affected his mental health. He needed to “re-learn how to live his life in a normal way”. He decided to put this fallout and journey into words. These turned into songs, and these made up his new album.
Hooper says the album is “honest, open and at times provoking. Respair takes the listener on a journey and was created in the form an album should be truly listened to, from start to finish”. Most of the music was written and recorded at his home studio. However, he had help from his closest friends to add some missing pieces to Respair. These included Harry Fausing Smith (Tom Misch) on strings and saxophone, Chris Matthewson (Bess Atwell), a duet with Edie Bens (Glassnote Records) and mixed by lifelong friend and collaborator Josh Trinnaman of Luo. It also included Rebecca Brandler (vocals), Joe Hall (drums) and Tommy Peach (trumpet). With all the pieces assembled, Respair is complete and out for the world to hear.
The album opens with “Nowhere”. It begins with faint voices in the background. As it progresses, you can hear the repeated lines, “Take another way to nowhere”. All wrapped up in a beautiful and mesmerising soundtrack. Following on is “Getting No Place Fast” and its chilled sound, filled with mellow beats and synths. It is the first time you hear his captivating storytelling qualities. The trait continues into “Zombie”. But, he strips back the music to create one of the stand-out moments from Respair. The combination of his acoustic guitar and gentle vocal style is as good as his way with words. They float along effortlessly. Getting even better as they share the chorus, “Save me from the zombie, darling / Keep me from the night time’s frightening”.
Talking about stand-out moments, one of the best comes from “There’s Nothing Between Us”. As soon as it begins, Hooper’s gentle voice comes in with, “Show me / There’s nothing between us / It’s ok / There’s love and there’s beauty / It’s alright, It’s not far”. His vocal style repeats throughout, never changing the mood, but continues to mesmerise. Lyrically, it may not be as in-depth as others, but his delivery gives it more of an impact. It has a remarkable quality about it that keeps you coming back for more. If that was not enough, two instrumental moments offer something different but still hold the listener’s attention. Check out the guitar solo mid-way through the song.
Listen to the lyrics of “It’s been a long haul back” and the emotional way they are shared, and you can feel his struggles. It may be a short and simple track, but its story is powerful. It begins with the lines, “Twisting and turning / My insides are out / Thoughts are all in doubt”. “The Dip” tells us that sometimes you have to hope for the best. Highlighted by his words, “But my friend / I’m really just hoping for the best / But I don’t even know how I’m getting up yet”. All shared with a captivating and gentle tone. A trait that flows into “It’s More Than Enough”. Along with his guitar, it is another mesmerising moment where his storytelling qualities shine.
Jacko Hooper does not hold anything back with his album ‘Respair’. It is honest songwriting at its best.
As soon as “To Where We Retreat” begins, the acoustic guitar draws you in and hints that this is an exceptional track. It is, as it is another stand-out moment from the album. Not only does he give one of his best vocal performances, but this song also stands out as he shares the mic with Edie Bens. Together (along with the use of the piano), it creates a beautiful moment from beginning to end. As much as things sound bad within the lyrics, there is a message of hope. Hooper puts it across with the lines, “So darling let’s run / Way over there / Where we’re not seen / I promise you this / There’s hope and there’s dreams / To where we retreat” with backing vocals by Ben’s. It is one of the best songs I have heard from this amazing songwriter.
The electronic elements return with the title track, “Respair”. It helps to share another emotional story to superb effect. The atmosphere and tone add so much to his words. Seeing out the album comes, “My Hometown’s A Graveyard”. It is one of those songs where less is more. The music feels minimal, as it mainly features Hooper and his piano. A short tale that may not stand out on the first listen, but it’s a grower.
As Respair reaches its end, you have to appreciate the honest emotion that the album showcases. Like all other work by Jacko Hooper, it is a quality that makes his music exceptional. This collection of songs highlights how he has pushed the boundaries of his sound and arrangments. Doing so elevates his already impressive storytelling qualities. As a result, it all comes together to create an album that is more than worth your listening time.