Posts Tagged ‘Hop Along’

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.

This Philly-based quartet of Mark and Frances Quinlan, Tyler Long, and Joe Reinhart push accessibility’s boundaries on their sophomore LP “Painted Shut”, which seamlessly skirts the middle ground between fuzzy guitar-pop and vertigo-inducing rhythms. Even more jarring (and appealing) is Frances’ octave-swinging, hair-raising vocal rasp.

With only two albums to their name, Hop Along have only just begun to hit their stride as a band.

“I Saw My Twin,” a gently loping Painted Shut standout track about finding your doppelgänger at the Waffle House

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.

http://KEXP.ORG presents Hop Along performing live in the KEXP studio. Recorded May 29, 2015.

Songs:
Texas Funeral
The Knock
Waitress
Tibetan Pop Stars
Powerful Man
Sister Cities

Hop Along performs “Waitress” for a World Cafe Session with host, David Dye. Recorded at WXPN/World Cafe Studios on March 19, 2015.

The Philadelphia band Hop Along started out with a folk sound back in 2004, when singer-songwriter Frances Quinlan began recording during her senior year of high school. Hop Along took on more of a rock edge in 2008 with the addition of her brother on drums; the group later added bassist Tyler Long and guitarist Joe Reinhardt.

As part of World Cafe’s Sense Of Place: Philadelphia series, Hop Along performs songs from its new album, Painted Shut.

 

hop along

If Flannery O’Connor fronted the Replacements: Sharply observed short stories set to incisive, insistent guitar music if you love bands like Waxahatchee, Eighties R.E.M., Neutral Milk Hotel these could be your next favourite new band,  In the album’s knockout opener, “The Knock,” the narrator wakes up to find Jehovah’s Witnesses at her door.
This Philly crew signed to the venerable indie label Saddle Creek last year, right around the time singer Frances Quinlan duetted with Rivers Cuomo at a Weezer gig; and this spring, Hop Along opened for the War on Drugs on tour. But their second LP, “Painted Shut” voted one of Rolling Stone Magazine 45 Best Albums of 2015 So Far  reveals a band that should be headlining. Over 10 songs, vocalist Francis Quinlan sketches out bracingly vivid characters. The heartbreaking “Horseshoe Crabs” imagines the inner life of the late, troubled Sixties singer-songwriter Jackson C. Frank. The album’s emotional centerpiece, “Powerful Man,” recounts an experience in which the singer witnessed a man beating his child in public and felt powerless to stop it. “It’s not a hero’s story,” she says. “I wanted it to be about how horrible that was, and how I was a part of it by not doing something.” Another standout track, “Happy to See Me,” finds strange poetry in the image of a lonely father posting to YouTube at 4 a.m. “That’s based on a real person,” Quinlan says. “This was back when everyone was freaking out about 2012 and how everything was going to end. This man was routinely posting these videos, and there’d be a lit candle behind him, and he’d go into his spiritual revelations. I got really into watching those.”

Hop Along is a family affair: Quinlan’s older brother Mark is their drummer. They see their sibling dynamic as mostly a good thing when it comes to the music. “We’re so emotionally invested in each other that there’s not the courtesy of warming someone up before you get to the heart of the matter,” says Mark Quinlan. “We just get to it.”

 

Hop Along performing live in the KEXP studio. Recorded May 29, 2015.

Songs:
Texas Funeral
The Knock
Waitress
Tibetan Pop Stars
Powerful Man
Sister Cities

Hop Along has often been dubbed Philadelphia’s best kept secret. But for much longer? I really Don’t think so, with a superb collection of songs the new album should see them as rising stars.

Get Disowned, Hop Along’s first full-band album which they self-released in 2012, came out of seemingly nowhere to be one of the most staggeringly perfect records of the year. Ten songs that were as catchy as they were strange. The Philly four-piece can pull off this amazing trick where they make a lyric instantly stick in your head without needing to tether it to a traditional verse-chorus-verse structure.

Part of what makes Hop Along’s sound so unique is the brother-sister anti-chemistry of drummer Mark Quinlan and guitarist/singer Frances Quinlan. Mark, who grew up pounding away for heavier hardcore bands, and Frances, a student of the Jeff Magnum style of make-it-weird-until-it-works songwriting, meet somewhere in the middle. Sometimes they’ll bring things down to a hushed whisper, before pushing levels beyond breaking points, and weave the two extremes together at break-neck paces. And it’s all glued together with Frances’ inimitable voice—raggedy and raw, with a wild, untameable streak. Never duplicating, always unpredictable.

As a result of their musically mutated DNA, Hop Along could hold their own alongside just about anyone. And they have. They’ve been jammed onto bills with everyone from The Thermals to Fucked Up to Paint It Black.

Naturally, the “secret” of Hop Along has gradually gotten out over the last few years and by the time they were ready to work on their follow-up sophomore album, Painted Shut, they had a long line of industry suitors, out of which, Omaha indie staple Saddle Creek Records emerged victorious. If the album’s first single, “Waitress” is any indicator, Saddle Creek got a steal.

“Waitress” is everything that makes Hop Along great, distilled down into three and a half minutes. Frances’ idiosyncratic lyricism is on full display and as each minute of the track passes, the band seems intent on upping their own intensity, crescendoing until the song hits a tipping point. And then it just ends. A perfect way to tease an album.

This is all a long-winded way of saying this: There is no one out there like Hop Along. Not even close. And Painted Shut might just end up being the best album of the year.

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. ​