HOP ALONG – ” Live On Soundcheck “

Posted: July 3, 2015 in MUSIC
Tags: , , ,

Hop Along’s trajectory has been more measured and longer in coming.

Starting roughly ten years ago as a solo songwriting outlet — then called Hop Along, Queen Ansleis — Quinlan crafted lo-fi folk songs while in art school in Baltimore, and released her first record, Freshman Year, in 2006. But it wasn’t until she relocated to Philadelphia after graduation, moved in with and started playing music with her brother Mark that a full band began to take shape. There’s a clear musical chemistry between the two siblings: His heavy and precise, metal-informed drumming serves as a counterpoint to her idiosyncratic singing — creating an push\pull, quiet-then-loud dynamic that defines the Hop Along’s explosive sound. With the addition of bassist Tyler Long and guitarist Joe Reinhart — who came on as a full-time member after producing Get DisownedHop Along grew into a local favorite among Philadelphia’s supportive (and affordable) music community.

From the outside looking in, there seems to be something special happening right now in Philly; with bands like Waxahatchee, Swearin’, Radiator Hospital, Girlpool, Nothing, and Cayetana (and many more) all having breakthroughs, the city is certainly enjoying a fruitful creative boom. “I would like to think these great bands would exist either way,” Quinlan says. “There’s not much you can do about where the spotlight is being turned.” Still, Hop Along’s hard work and word-of-mouth reputation is finally paying off.

Painted Shut — the band’s new album, and first on the beloved indie label Saddle Creek Records — not only stands firmly alongside Hop Along’s Philly peers, it’s one of the year’s best rock records.

Even as songs like The Knock or I Saw My Twin crackle and burn with distorted guitars and unrelenting drums, Quinlan’s lyrics are heartbreaking and sincere — scratching at personal anxieties and relationships, documenting the rocky transition into adulthood, and ruminating on indecision and fear of the unknown, all with microscopic specificity. Yet her words are so relatable that you begin to see something of yourself in her experiences. But where Get Disowned tended to look inward, on Painted Shut, Quinlan now seems to be tackling weightier themes.

Throughout the album, she reflects on the lives of different characters as a way to illuminate ideas about love and loss, poverty and greed, and mental illness with honesty and in emotionally raw terms. And when told through tiny observations, conversations, and rich imagery, Quinlan often disguises meaning in elusive yet evocative lyrical phrases. “By the time it’s old, a face will have been seen one and a half million times,” Quinlan sings in Waitress.” “I would call you enemy because I’m afraid of what you could call me / The world’s gotten so small and embarrassing.”

 

Powerful Man — perhaps the most immediate song on the album — recalls a potent and painful tale of abuse, and the feeling of being powerless and unheard: “She didn’t look too happy to see us / ‘How should I know?’ she said. / ‘The man you just described could be anyone,'” she sings amid scorching guitar hooks.

Elsewhere, there are also moments of self-reflection (“We all will remember things the same,” she repeatedly muses on Happy To See Me) followed by displays of fearlessness (“None of this is gonna happen to me!” she chants on Texas Funeral). It’s this blend of sweetness and fist-pumping, “let’s-all-shout-in-unison” ferocity that makes Hop Along’s music such a jarring and cathartic experience.

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