Music is built for moments. Little pieces of your life which are launched back into your consciousness, triggered by a riff, a hook, the twang in an artist’s voice. We bookmark events, power ourselves through excruciating pain, walk batters up to the plate (happy baseball season y’all) with clips, albums and tracks. Hop Along has always seemed to work backwards through that equation. Their third album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog has refined what makes their sound both exciting and moving—building music through moments.
I first saw Hop Along’s frontwoman and songwriter, Frances Quinlan, perform a stripped down set at Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church. Hearing her unparalleled and unique voice ricochet off of the chapel ceilings latched me to her sound. Her voice was unhinged, powerful, and nervous all at once. Later that year her band, Hop Along, would go on to release their first proper album, Get Disowned. A pairing between her grainy voice and grounded songwriting with the wild skills of Tyler Long on bass, Joe Reinhart on guitar and Frances’ brother, Mark Quinlan, on drums. Get Disowned was beautiful, jaunty, raw and earned them critical acclaim, carving out a spot in the indie world for Frances and her band.
Their second album, Painted Shut was introspective, upbeat, full of unexpected draw and punch. A bold and personal extension to Get Disowned, the band cleaned up the jaunty guitar riffs, allowing the songs to come to them without forcing their sound.
Six years after their first release, Hop Along has taken another leap forward. Frances’ songs have always read more like a diary entry than traditional lyrics, forgoing lofty imagery for stories. Nine of these stories fit together to make Bark Your Head Off, Dog a 40-minute, no frills kind of album. Songs like “The Fox in Motion” capitalize on their signature sound and storytelling. Frances’ words flow over the plucky guitar riff, swelling until the final resolve.
Opening track and undeniably catchy earworm, “How Simple” marks growth for the band, Frances forgoes her trademark voice crackle for a more accessible range. With palpable energy, the refrain, “Don’t worry we will both find out/ Just not together,” is an anthem repeated until the end of the song. A quick two liner that holds so much meaning. Frances’ storytelling coupled with her economy of language is both beautiful and enviable.
On Bark Your Head Off, Dog, Hop Along has learned to play within their strengths, exhibiting the technical skills that draw even the most discerning listeners. Previously songs like, “Sister Cities” married the bands raucous sound with Frances’ crackling voice. Now, they’ve found a new way to channel and control that energy into tracks like “One That Suits Me.”
Riding beside Hop Along while they’ve grown album to album has been a great joy. The album closes with, “Prior Things” a satisfying walk to the shore, leaving listeners as they found them. Clocking in at only 40 minutes, the nine-song album is the perfect compilation of moments, true to life, and beautifully packaged.
And when you finally go
When you choose to go
I resume my little road
And nobody needs to know
Will know that I was only holding your place on this
Your little lower road
Catch Hop Along on tour this summer and stream Bark Your Head Off, Dog on Spotify below.