I’ve had Jesca Hoop’s stunning “Intelligentactile 101” stuck in my head for months, ever since an mp3blog posted it. It came up in iTunes today, and I checked to see if the album is out yet and it is. Awesome. “Intelligentactile 101″ by Jesca Hoop from the album Kismet (2007, 4:20).
“Intelligentactile 101” springs along with a finger-tapping boppiness, and in the boppy course of things Hoop rather casually gives us a generous array of melodies (there seem to be four distinct sections: verse, bridge, chorus, and something else) to capture her trippy lyrics, along with a winsome assortment of percussive accents, from clacky to tinkly to whirry. The opening melody has a particularly lovely lilt to it, but she slyly withholds its full effect until the song is more than half over: listen to how the same melody that opens the song (0:10–0:16) sounds later on, fleshed out ever so slightly with an elastic bass and spacey keyboard, enough to open our ears to the chord progression that lay latent beneath the tune.
The song ranks with “Red Right Ankle” by The Decemberists from the album Her Majesty (2003, 3:29) as one of the great musical treatments of developmental biology. “Red Right Ankle” traces “the story of your red right ankle, and how it came to meet your leg. How the muscles, bone and sinews tangled, and how the skin was softly shed. How it whispered ‘Oh, adhere to me, for we are bound by symmetry.”
Hoop traces a baby from unplanned conception through birth: “Ooooh, gonna be a baby girl. A round trip ticket to a blue planet, flip a uie at Mars. Oooh, I’m gonna swim in the water first. Blowin’ up her belly though she didn’t plan it, I took the invitation when she rocked the hammock. Pulling all the wild cards. And now I’m swinging from the stars, an umbilical cord.” The song’s title comes from the baby’s tendency to learn about the world through play: “On my tongue, on my tongue, I want your fingers on my tongue. I want some intelligent tactile. When foreign play things come, I’m gonna study ‘em with my tongue. I want some intelligentactile 101.”
The song is filled with the sort of wordplay that I look for, and Fingertips is absolutely right about the elaborate melodic structure. A lesser musician would have foundered on jagged edges in creating such a song, but Hoop manages to keep it smooth without taking away the song’s bite.
Other recent music magic: random shuffle placed “Zambra” by Ojos de Brujo from the album Barí (2005, 6:47) right before “Desolation Row” by Bob Dylan from the album Highway 61 Revisited (1965, 11:22).
Despite their totally different approaches, the guitar outro on one flowed perfectly into the other. One is a pounding nuevo flamenco, while the other is a lilting dystopic folk-rock fantasy recorded 40 years earlier. Nonetheless the transition was so perfect that I momentarily thought the first song was repeating itself. Another bit of jarring smoothness.