A few weeks back, while researching songs to include in our monthly mixtape series, we stumbled across Philadelphia’s Hop Along, a band writers with a tendency for the hyperbolic might call America’s next best rock band.
I’d like to think I veer away from such excitedly over-simplistic sentiment, but I can say this with certainty—Hop Along is really fucking good.
According to the local indie music experts at The Key/WXPN, Hop Along has been “putting out exceptional music for the better part of a decade”. But for most of us—myself included—the band’s sophomore full-length, Painted Shut, is acting as a debut for all intents and purposes, providing a first impression the national audience as a whole.
For my money, it’s a beautifully done faux-debut from start-to-finish.
The songs are excellently crafted, bringing in shared influences ranging from the post-hardcore to second wave emo to the unashamedly Springsteen-esque traditional American rock, but the band keeps things interesting with clever song structure, insightful narrative lyrics, and intricate, layered rhythmic choices.
But—and I realize this is the part of the review that inevitably wanders into the exact pitfalls of every other person writing about Hop Along—the real star, despite the excellent instrumentation and song-writing, is frontwoman Frances Quinlan’s voice. I literally think it’s impossible to write about or even consider this band without stopping to admire that voice. It’s like a most powerful rock whisper, full of raspy emotion, and it’s beautiful.
The only valid criticism I could think someone might have for Painted Shut is that it’s songs sound very similar in style. But, on repeated listen, each track starts to stand out more and more, as do the lyrics and the stories behind the songs, to the point that I start to admire the consistency in style.
And, to be fair, Quinlan could have chosen to pair her voice with any number of other, less interesting or musically pleasing (for me) genres or musicians. Here though, as a whole, with the excellent songs, uniquely powerful voice, and clear desire as song-writers to tell us something, the band makes its mark with Painted Shut as a game-changer in its genre.
Eh. I’m trending toward hyperbole, aren’t I. Point being, again, they’re fucking good. You should give them a listen if you haven’t already.
You can check out three tracks from the new album below; listen to segments and download via iTunes.
Photo by Shervin Lainez.