HOP ALONG – ” Painted Shut “

Posted: June 11, 2015 in MUSIC
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Hop Along has had multiple lives. First conceptualized as a freak-folk solo act by Frances Quinlan, it progressed towards a fuller sound with the addition of Mark Quinlan on drums, Tyler Long on bass and Joe Reinhart (Algernon Cadwallader, Dogs on Acid) on guitar. Emerging as one of music’s most unique songwriters, the captivating vignettes Frances has weaved tell vivid stories of desperation and weary awakening. Her powerful voice is a spellbinding entity all it’s own, celebratory and raw, and one that can’t be shaken away. Their new album, Painted Shut, (out on May 5, 2015 via Saddle Creek Records) is their 2nd full-length (preceded by Get Disowned in 2012). However, this release marks their first time creating as a full-formed entity, arranging everything as a group. It was co-produced, recorded and mixed by John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, etc.) in the great cities of Philadelphia and Brooklyn, and incidentally finished in the shortest span of time the band has ever made anything.

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Like their debut, Painted Shut is a series of accounts, a procession of fleeting characters. However, it diverges from its predecessor in its close-up, controlled approach (most of the album features the band recording live), Painted Shut is a grounded, less merciful image of many struggling adults in a severe landscapes.

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• Sophomore album and Saddle Creek debut from Philadelphia’s Hop Along
• Produced by John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile)
• One of the most anticipated albums of 2015
The concept of added value is on full display on this album. You sense that “Hop Along”, a band of indie folkies from Philadelphia, would be a decent rock outfit but not necessarily one marked out for special attention. The extra dimension is the voice of Frances Quinlan. She has a raspy and often strained delivery. Indeed, there is the feeling that sometimes she is struggling to meet the higher notes, yet it is her voice imperfections that make it perfect. Quinlan injects a dynamism and energy into these songs that charge at the listener and threatens your balance. Listen to the opener “The Knock” or the wondrous “Sister Cities” and marvel how in 2015 most of the best rock albums are led by bands fronted by women (See also Courtney Barrett and Speedy Ortiz).

“Painted Shut” is the band’s second album and the songs across its all too brief 41 minutes impress like a smart interviewee in a new suit. In tracks like “Powerful Man,” we also see that Quinlan is not afraid to bare her soul and, in this case, deep regret. It deals with an incident that occurred when she was eighteen years old and failed to intervene when she witnessed a father beating his young son after school. The hurt in her voice is tangible not least to her teachers indifferent reaction. The song, despite its raw subject matter, is nevertheless a slice of pure pop gold. The same judgement applies to “Texas Funeral” a quiet/loud anthem full of choppy chords and ramshackle beauty. Other tracks like “Waitress” show that the band have studied “In an Aeroplane over the sea” diligently, in short “lo-fi but lush”. Throughout Quinlan’s band comrades provide solid support although to hear her “go acoustic” on “Happy to see me” showcases an extraordinary talent who these musicians must treasure and nurture.

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Hop Along have enough special ingredients to rise above the indie crowd and surgically strike in territory occupied by some of the most popular new US bands. They have recently supported “War on Drugs” and time in the company of the great Adam Granducial can do not harm. “Painted Shut” really is a very good album, full of gold medal songs and a singer to die for. ​

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