I’ve never made music alone. I’ve written a lot of songs in my room by myself. Somehow there always end up being a lot of people, a lot of experience involved and that’s what makes them important.
— Frances Quinlan

The Beard – EP 120 – Hop Along by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Hop Along – Painted Shut

Hop Along - Painted Shut

Hop Along – Painted Shut – Saddle Creek Records

What began as a young Frances Quinlan acoustic project for school–Hop Along, Queen Ansleis–has blossomed into the fully formed quartet heard on the new album Painted Shut. Shortened to Hop Along, the band has been Indie rock’s worst kept secret the past few years since the release of the then trio’s debut album, Get Disowned. Quinlan, joined by her brother Mark Quinlan on drums and Tyler Long on bass, pushed out into the world one of the most surprising and aggressively listenable albums of the past years. By turns visceral and touching, naked and poignant, there was something instantly likable about the music on multiple levels. What might be an otherwise overly barebones collection of soundscapes is fleshed out by Quinlan’s dynamic voice singing over a rough mix of off-kilter acoustic and electric guitars–with the slightest use of keys providing lush sustenance–and begs the the listener to question, “What kind of album will this be: Joanna Newsom or Yeah Yeah Yeahs?” It’s both, and much more.

Where the overwhelming gist of Get Disowned felt like a correspondence of thunderous backbeat cannonades overtop guitar-rimmed and beautifully voiced stories of hunger (“No Good Al Joad”), laden with raspy-throated calls prefacing poignant string-laden segments, Painted Shut is more even and delivers on the feeling of promise to come. There is the same peppery brand of urgency and tension, especially in the talented young Quinlan’s vocal display, the hints of desperation tinging the songs with an asymmetry that elevates the band to next echelon levels. Now a quartet with Joe Reinhart, who arranged and co-produced Get Disowned, the band is more grounded and controlled. Facts which do not dissuade Hop Along’s continued dash toward vibrant artistry and melodic depiction of some of the unfortunately lower sides of life in modern society in a way that cries out to sing along and shimmy. On “Waitress” she soulfully croons:

And I’ll share a very
Common poverty
It’s a very common kind
Common kind, common kind
It’s a very common kind
It’s not that I am worried
I just wish you and your friends would leave

Hop Along - Painted Shut

Frances Quinlan sings during the recording of “Sister Cities” on ‘Painted Shut’

Quinlan’s best when she writes about others. On “Buddy in the Parade” the band pays homage to the oft-depicted legendary Ragtime cornetist Buddy “King” Bolden, known for his very loud sound, constant improvisation, until incapacitated by an episode of acute alcoholic psychosis in 1907 at the age of 30, and then schizophrenia. Follow up “Horseshoe Crabs” focuses on Jackson C. Frank, the unknown folk hero whose sole album was produced by Paul Simon, plagued with mental illness till death. The album is jubilant in a muted way and on successive listenings you can hear Quinlan’s broader brushstrokes begin to clarify into accounts of poverty, abuse, and greed, things that we can all relate to. Much like on the standout Get Disowned, “Tibetan Pop Stars” a rollocking love story balanced by the succinct andante composure of the rhythm section, laid down as framework for her power-chord guitar riffs, the off-the-cuff songwriting style has advanced quickly in just three albums from talented young band to become a full-fledged powerhouse of emotive efficacy, but it’s not so much a quantifiable process as it’s a rendering of a feeling:

A song always starts out to me like a poem. I know people that write phrases for their sound–how it sounds–but I write it just for the words, I mean I have to figure out how it’s going to sound. If I’m reading it and it’s not reading well, then it’s not really worth singing.

Recorded and mixed by John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth) in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, Hop Along, equal parts Sonic Youth dissonance and Built To Spill power pop with vocal dashes of Kim Deal and Kurt Cobain, is at its core the avant-garde Freak Folk guitar band with rhythmic pop sensibilities Frances started all those years ago. Along with musicians A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs, Waxahatchee and others, Hop Along is leading the way for Philadelphia as the new center of the rock world. The Non-Profit Weathervane Music, whose Shake Along Project features the process of songwriting going on in the band’s song “Sister Cities” states its mission is to support independent music and the community that surrounds it, calling Philadelphia home as well:

“It’s one of the best places in America to be an artist – it’s inexpensive, well situated and gives you the freedom to live how you want… You should come visit.”

Especially if there’s a chance to see Hop Along play live.

Tour Dates

Hop Along - Get Disowned

Hop Along – Get Disowned

Fri, May 22 Tucson, AZ US The Flycatcher
Sat, May 23 Los Angeles, CA US The Echo
Tue, May 26 San Francisco, CA US Rickshaw Stop
Thu, May 28 Portland, OR US Doug Fir Lounge
Fri, May 29 Seattle, WA US Chop Suey
Sat, May 30 Vancouver, BC, CA The Cobalt
Mon, Jun 01 Boise, ID US Neurolux
Tue, Jun 02 Salt Lake City, UT US Kilby Court
Wed, Jun 03 Denver, CO US Lost Lake Lounge
Thu, Jun 04 Omaha, NE US Slowdown
Fri, Jun 05 Chicago, IL US Subterranean
Sat, Jun 06 Pittsburgh, PA US Cattivo
Sun, Jun 07 Toronto, ON, CA Lee’s Palace
Sat, Jun 13 Rehoboth Beach, DE Dogfish Head Brewery
Sat, Jul 25 Philadelphia, PA US XPoNential Music Festival
Sun, Aug 23 Los Angeles, CA US FYF Fest