HOP ALONG – ” Painted Shut ” Best Albums Of 2015

Posted: January 12, 2017 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Every discussion of Hop Along begins with Frances Quinlan’s voice. It’s a force of nature, yes, but it’s also human, often painfully so, and she uses it to relate stories of humanity in all its rawness and imperfection, its ugliness and its grace. The band match her thorny intensity with knife-sharp guitars and rhythms, see-sawing from sweetness to noise, building to moments of musical and emotional catharsis that detonate with the force of a land-mine. So much of Painted Shut is about feeling small, feeling weak, letting people down and being let down, but Hop Along turn that into something explosive and strong and beautiful and triumphant. Powerlessness has never sounded so powerful.

The wiry, bookish sound of Painted Shut by the band Hop Along are at their vanguard. “By the time it’s old/ My face will have been seen/ And I’ll share a very/ Common poverty/ It’s a very common kind,” Frances Quinlan sings on “Waitress”, a vignette about a disgraced diner server. Hop Along spend all of their stellar third album leaping to capture these specific sorts of honors.

Quinlan’s rough voice always sounds on the verge of giving out, but as a writer she is a tender guardian who sees dignity everywhere she looks: On “The Knock”, she is moved to tears by the beaming Jehovah’s Witness who knocks on her door (“I never once seen a teenager look so radiant”), and “Buddy in the Parade” recalls the spectacular public breakdown of early-20th century cornetist Charles “Buddy” Bolden, who started frothing at the mouth during a parade performance and spent the rest of his life in a sanitarium. The songs are furiously angry in their energy and endlessly compassionate toward their targets, backing you into a corner and hugging you fiercely, like someone staging a very determined intervention on your behalf.

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