Vocals 8.25

Musicianship 8.5

Lyrics 8.75

Production 9.25

Creativity 9.25

Lasting Value 8.5

Reviewer Tilt 8.75

Final Verdict: 88%

Records like this only come along once in a lifetime. Hunting My Dress, the third album from Northern California native Jesca Hoop is an enigmatic, literary and deeply moving disc of nine mini-opuses. Haunting album opener "Whispering Light," begins with the singer-songwriter's distinctive vocals in a spoken-word format and taking on a distinctive British lilt. Written as a response to her late mother's battle with cancer and her desire to not undergo chemotherapy, Hoop has admitted the song is a staunch defense of her decision. Indelible, achingly poignant and complex, it's a most fitting introduction to the engaging and often eccentric mind of Jesca Hoop.

"The Kingdom" utilizes traditional folk guitar and vocals that rise like uillean pipes. Equal parts triumphant, tribal and idiosyncratic, it is a song deeply rooted in antiquity and melodrama. "Feast of the Heart," opens with a guitar line culled from the Brit-rock playbook and Hoop offers up her edgiest vocals to date. There's a definitive attitude and swagger about the entire performance and when it finishes the urge to start it up again is almost too good to pass up.

Producer Tony Berg (Michael Penn, Aimee Mann, Nickel Creek) firmly understands Hoop's artistry and never once sacrifices that vision. The timeless "Angel Moon," lets the chanteuse display her vast range while the bacchanalian "Four Dreams," swoops and swirls, allowing her vocals to brighten as the progresses. Lead single "Murder of Birds," features backing vocals from Hoop fanatic Guy Garvey, lead singer of British band Elbow.

"Bed Across the Sea," is genre-bending and improvisational as her vocals are muted and allow a reverberating guitar to meander for four full minutes. More or less an exercise in mood and cadence, the faux-instrumental is a creative and clever work that vaults her far ahead of the current pool of female singer-songwriters. Penultimate cut "Tulip," is twisty and entrancing while title track and album closer "Hunting My Dress," is arguably one of 2010's most rewarding songs and an absolute standout.

That last sentiment is probably the best way to describe Hoop. Sure she's unconventional, a bit puzzling but in the end she is undeniably rewarding and compelling. Hell, come to think of it, Hunting My Dress might be one of 2010's most pleasant surprises.