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New Music: Hop Along

By Jason Herring, June 4 2015 —

Hop Along craft a distinct brand of punk music. The Philadelphia-based four-piece band’s sophomore album, Painted Shut, showcases raw and jagged instrumentation combined with frontwoman Frances Quinlan’s impassioned vocals.

But Hop Along also take a marked step back in their music, producing a collection of mediocre songs that border on unlistenable.

The problem with Painted Shut boils down to Quinlan’s vocal performance. When she sings, she’s constantly tooling around with her voice, bouncing between a gravelly howl and a strained falsetto in a single line.

Quinlan’s voice is fascinating and strangely pleasurable in small doses. But after listening to half an album of it, her singing becomes a grating annoyance.

This is most apparent on the album’s only acoustic track, “Happy to See Me.” The pared-down instrumentation exposes Quinlan’s voice and the results aren’t flattering. A poor performance like this would be excusable if it were accompanied by strong lyrics or guitar work, but those are also absent. When Quinlan sings a line like “father gets up at 4 a.m to post a motivational video on Youtube again,” all you can do is shake your head. ENT_HopAlong

The rest of the album shows little promise. The backing instrumentation fails to develop into anything distinctive, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it isn’t enough to make up for the rest of the album’s shortcomings.

Two songs on Painted Shut merit recognition, though. Lead single “Waitress” is underlined by an infectious guitar riff and features an energetic and catchy chorus, while “Texas Funeral” is the record’s best song because of strong guitar solos that keep Quinlan in the background.

But those tracks aren’t enough to save the record. Quinlan’s harsh vocals drain Painted Shut and prevent the album from developing into something great.

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