Hop Along is the perfect example of an “it” band who completely lives up to the hipster-driven hype. No one else quite captures sonic joy quite like this Philly group, whose potent brand of indie rock has grown even more powerful on their sophomore release, Painted Shut. The band, no matter how harsh and honest Frances Quinlan’s lyrics, seem to genuinely relish the opportunity to do what they love. Thankfully, Painted Shut sees Hop Along capitalizing on that momentum, by improving in almost every way possible. It’s a different (and much more varied and consistent release) beast than Get Disowned, which makes it easier to truly appreciate the group.
It helps that I can feel a special connection with Frances’ detailed story-based lyrics. I once wrote a sociology term paper based on the time I almost kissed a girl (who would eventually become my wife years later), so the fact that many of these songs are written about seemingly insignificant moments that hold a special place in Frances’ heart makes them all the more charming. From the awkward public sighting in “The Waitress” to the hauntingly powerful tale in “Powerful Man”, the stories aren’t particularly cheery, but the catharsis is unmistakable; you feel a connection with the stories here. Oh, did I mention the music is even better on Hop Along’s second go-round? The band’s unique mix of folk, punk, grunge, and hints of math rock is even more invigorating that it was on Get Disowned. That album felt a bit top heavy (to be fair, “Tibetan Pop Stars” is hard to beat), whereas Painted Shut feels very well-rounded. Each song is just as powerful and quirky as the one before and after it.
Overall, Hop Along have written one of those albums meant for superlatives. Sure, it’s not exactly an album meant for everybody, with Frances’ unique, passion-fueled voice, but the band inject more than enough personality to makePainted Shut a success. There’s no doubt this will go down as the best indie rock record of 2015. The question is how the Hell do they top this? (Nicholas Senior)
You can also read the digital version of Issue #17 by clicking the cover below.