New Album Review

ALBUM REVIEW: Hop Along – Painted Shut


The draw of Hop Along (and the band’s most distinguishing
characteristic) is clearly Frances Quinlan’s unique vocal style. At times it’s
yelly and scratchy; then at others it’s soothing and wispy. Maybe it’s this
dynamic that makes their music intriguing and powerful for so many people. Hop
Along’s last album, Get Disowned, was
released in 2012 and had a sort of cult following. Missing from Painted Shut are the classical strings
that pervaded Get Disowned. Despite
this, the albums have similar characteristics. These similarities include minimal
guitar and vocal effects, and lyrics that contain strange, yet interesting, subject
matter (see “The Knock”). Maybe the most notable difference between the albums
is the added production from John Agnello. In the past, he has produced albums
for Dinosaur Jr, The Hold Steady, and Kurt Vile. Even with the increased
production quality, the band still manages to sound raw on Painted Shut. The songs are still heartfelt and sometimes even

Hop Along’s new record displays a variety of different
influences, which is often characteristic of something innovative. Sure,
comparisons to bands like Waxahatchee and Lemuria are notable, but Hop Along
achieves a different sound that no one does quite as well these days. The music
is somewhat representative of where the band currently calls home,
Philadelphia, picking up on a few emo and punk influences that the city is
known for. In fact, in 2013 the band added guitarist Joe Reinhart from the Philadelphia
emo band Algernon Cadwallader to their lineup. Algernon Cadwallader was one of
the very first bands that began reviving the sound of Cap’n Jazz and its 90’s
emo contemporaries circa 2006. Joe’s exulting guitar playing that was present
in Algernon makes itself known on Painted
. Even more, the child-like energy that Algernon Cadwallader possessed
is not lost on Hop Along. Often Frances even recalls experiences from her
formative years, like on one of the album’s bests, “Powerful Man” where she
cites the memory of watching a father physically abuse their child.

Though the music on Painted
is not strictly punk, Hop Along brings punk attitudes to the mix. For
example, on the yearnful “Texas Funeral” Quinlan sings in rejection of the
overt coolness of the west coast: “I’m
going out flipping the bird to California. Keep your melting stars! I followed
all the rules.”
Or through the suppressed rebellion expressed on
“Well-Dressed” with its stark imagery: “It’s
built a freeway all around my bed.
saw it once open its great mouth wide, but it was so full of afflicted houses
and buildings I can’t remember what it was saying.
” It seems laws and rules
have been a consistent theme in Hop Along’s music, recalling one of the
highlight tracks of Get Disowned,
“Tibetan Pop Stars.” It ends with the refrain: “My love is average. I obey an average law.” Almost as if Frances
expresses some sorrowful acceptance of authority.

Painted Shut
serves as an example that traditional rock instrumentation is still a relevant
and visceral mode of musical expression, and overall, the album is the band’s
most solid effort yet. While it displays clear influences, Painted Shut should be described as anything but derivative, and
honestly… I’m surprised at just how many songs from this album I enjoy.

Favorite tracks: “Horseshoe Crabs”, “Texas Funeral”, “Powerful
Man”, “Well-dressed”

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