I must admit a line in the press release reeled me into this one. Jesca Hoop, originally from California, worked “for five years as nanny to the children of Tom Waits and his wife, Kathleen Brennan. ‘Her music is like going swimming in a lake at night,’ Waits reckons.

I must admit a line in the press release reeled me into this one. Jesca Hoop, originally from California, worked “for five years as nanny to the children of Tom Waits and his wife, Kathleen Brennan. ‘Her music is like going swimming in a lake at night,’ Waits reckons.

Intriguing, obviously. I’ve been playing Hoop’s “Kismet Acoustic” EP quite a lot of late, and while I can’t pretend it all quite works for me – “Intelligentactile 101” is as archly whimsical as its title, more or less – some of it is terrific. Does she sound like swimming in a lake at night? Hard to say. Perhaps a twee, folksy-indie Karen Dalton would be closer to the mark; I’m reminded of Liz Green, who’s operating in similar territory, too.

The first track here is the best and, promisingly, the newest one she’s written (the others apparently had fleshed-out treatments on an album, “Kismet”, from 2007, that I’ve never come across). It’s called “Murder Of Birds”, features Guy Garvey on discreet, low-level backing vocals, and melodically moves in the same territory as Kate Bush’s “Army Dreamers”; Joanna Newsom is a plausible comparison, too, though Hoop seems more earthly than transported. There’s something about her guitar playing here that’s oddly reminiscent of Newsom’s harp, as well – a certain gem-like shimmer that sounds like a kora at times.

It’s lovely, anyway, and there’s enough else on “Kismet Acoustic” – notably “Seed Of Wonder” (more Newsom allusions here, perhaps) – to make Hoop worth following more intensively next year. I’m currently bombarded, like all music writers, by publicists and media outlets proffering and requesting “tips” for 2009, and might chuck her name into the mix along with, oh, Crystal Antlers maybe. Everyone’s going to vote for Passion Pit this year, I imagine. Not keen on that.

I digress. It’s a bit invidious, but writing about Jesca Hoop reminded me of another new American female singer-songwriter who I’ve been meaning to mention for a while now. Larkin Grimm was brought up in a religious cult commune at Yale, studied at Yale and fell into the orbit of The Dirty Projectors, and now seems to be Michael Gira’s latest discovery at Young God.

The knowledge that one of her predecessors at Young God was Devendra Banhart is some indication of Grimm’s style. It’s hard to remember now, but the first sighting of Banhart suggested a mystical and somewhat sinister figure, and there are similar elements to Grimm, especially on “Blond And Golden Johns”, a studiously witchy song about prostitution.

It’s genuinely effective, though some elements of her “Parplar” album self-consciously pushes the “weird” button a bit too hard – a very different kind of whimsy to that of Jesca Hoop, but just as occasionally frustrating, vide “Little mother Mary riding on a unicorn,” and so on.

But then, like Hoop, there are some things here that are just wonderful. Again, the first track is the show-stopper, “They Were Wrong” being slow, low-lit and minimal in a way which suggests that Grimm might be better advised to concentrate on these solemn, graceful moods – even the eerie chants like “Durge” – rather than the more wild-eyed, rickety tracks. Lots to be fascinated by here, anyhow.

Check out the myspaces, maybe? Jesca Hoop and Larkin Grimm.