Hop Along are a band who’ve been at it for about 10 years now but this will hopefully be the album that sees them gather more acclaim and success. They blend together elements of Pop-rock, Punk and Indie to make a series of tracks that are so distinct despite their obvious influences. There’s scratchy guitars similar to The Strokes and a pop sensibility in every single vocal melody on here. Their past releases have been heavily influenced by Freak-Folk but that only shows up on a couple of the tracks on here like ‘Happy To See Me’, but in general it’s a fantastic change of pace for the band to be so much more electric.
Hop Along are fronted by the fantastic vocalist Frances Quinlan whose voice is the glue that moulds this band together. Her vocals are so distinctive with her going extremely raspy when she enters the upper register. It sounds like she’s straining them so hard that they’re cracking with the amount of emotion that she’s putting into the songs; song that deserve the amount of effort she’s putting into them like the album opener ‘The Knock’, the instrumentation in the guitars are so delicate on this song yet Quinlan demands control over everything never letting anything else steal the show. The production was handled by John Agnello – who previously produced for Kurt Vile, Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth – and he does a fantastic job of making this record never feel overbearing with the nature of Quinlan’s vocals.
All of the songs on here are explorations of tragedy like the song ‘Powerful Man’ which sees her take on the perspective of someone witnessing someone hit their child and not knowing what to do about it. Elsewhere the song ‘Waitress’ has her seeing an ex-lover with someone new while working as waitress and not having the knowledge to know how to channel your frustration. These songs are all built around the feeling of helplessness in some extremely interesting situations.
Hop Along’s ‘Painted Shut’ may be one of the most idiosyncratic releases of the year so far with the band mastering a style that sounds so simple yet incorporates so many sub-genres of rock music seamlessly. Not only that but their vocalist has all the elements that could make her one of the most recognisable in the underground if they continue on this route.
Best Tracks: The Knock, Waitress, Horseshoe Crabs, Powerful Man