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The last week has been full of excitement for Hop Along‘s new album Painted Shut, released Tuesday on Saddle Creek. It’s the Philly band’s third full-length album, but in a way, it was almost like its debut to a wider audience. On Saturday night, Hop Along headlined for a packed house at Union Transfer which, with local openers Thin Lips and Clique in tow, felt like one big neighborhood party. Continue reading →
Okay, yes, obviously with our week full of coverage of Hop Along’s new album Painted Shut, we think you should go to the Hop Along show tonight. But you know what? The first Love on the Streets Festival to benefit the Paine’s Skate Park Funk is a daytime concert, and the music is just as great, making it the perfect pre-party. West Philly folky punk faves Radiator Hospital headline, along with pop anthem machine W.C. Lindsay, buzzing emo four-piece Clique (who open for Hop Along later tonight) and the hard-hitting Dogs On Acid (featuring Joe Reinhart of Hop Along). Earlier in the day there are performances by EDM-leaning artists Moon Bounce, Jack Deezl and Mister Sampson, plus skate and circus arts demos. It’s gonna be a great time; more information here. Continue reading →
More than simply a great band, Philly’s Hop Along is a great band that understands the value of community. They’ve opened shows and tours for their more established scene peers like mewithoutYou and Dr. Dog, and in turn they’ve taken given opening opportunities to Thin Lips and Clique. They record at Philly studios, they have Philly friends contribute to their albums, they work with Philly people (like Cat Park and Tiff Yoon of Amanda X) on their music videos and merch. And in turn, they’re a band that’s embraced the Philadelphia music world around.
Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee has a tattoo of Hop Along’s Freshman Year album art on her left arm (opposite Rilo Kiley’s The Execution of All Things on her right). When Modern Baseball recorded their Key Studio Session, bassist Ian Farmer rocked a sweet Hop Along t-shirt. And pretty much any time the band has a Philly gig, the crowd is filled with local musicians…meaning we’re expecting their headlining show at Union Transfer tomorrow night to be a total love fest. To get prepared, we got a bunch of their Philly music friends to tell us what exactly it is they love about Hop Along. Continue reading →
Frances Quinlan first heard the ravaged voice of Jackson C. Frank a few years while working a house painting job. She had a Nick Drake Spotify channel keeping her company during the long hours, and one day while working at her friend Mike’s house, the song “Tumble In The Wind” came on.
“I heard it and immediately was like ‘who is this?’” she recalls. “So I looked him up. And I read one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read.”
The legend goes that the New England musician got into music and guitar playing while recovering from a school fire which left him with burns on 50% of his body. When Frank received settlement money at age 21, he moved to England, met Paul Simon – who was living in the UK at the time – and the two worked together to record his self-titled album, his only commercial release during his lifetime.
However, while his music influenced the emerging 60s folk scene and his song “Blues Run The Game” was covered by Simon & Garfunkel and Nick Drake, Frank himself remained mired in obscurity. Returning to the United States, a series of tragedies struck – he developed paranoid schizophrenia, was homeless for a period of time, lost one eye when a group of kids sitting in a park accidentally shot him in the face with a pellet gun. Eventually a fan named Jim Abbott tracked him down in the 90s and helped him make his final recordings, including “Tumble.”
“He could barely play,” Quinlan says. “But it is such a great song. I couldn’t stop thinking about him.”
Most people know Frances Quinlan as a singer and songwriter, the powerful voice behind Philly’s Hop Along. But visual art was actually her first calling; she founded the band almost ten years ago as a freshman studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Most of her album art is the work of her own hand, with no shortage of ambition either. At the Get Disowned album release party in the basement of the First Unitarian Church, Quinlan decorated the stage with dozens of larger-than-life-sized leaves from the album cover, and then handed dozens more out to the audience. (It was June and the basement was sweltering, so they made good handheld fans, as well as mementos for the fans.) And the intricate, beautiful still life on the cover of Painted Shut is her work as well.
The new music video for “Powerful Man” might be Quinlan’s most complex and rewarding fusion of art and music. Continue reading →
It’s Tuesday, meaning we’re at the part in our occasional Unlocked series where the person writing the series shares their review of the album we’re featuring. Thing is, we pretty much all love Hop Along and Painted Shut. So for today’s installment, we bring you our first-ever Key Staff collaborative album review. Enjoy!
Philly greats Hop Along have been hanging out in the shadows for quite some time. Although the band has been putting out exceptional music for the better part of a decade, they have kept a relatively low profile until now. Their new album Painted Shut, released this week on revered indie label Saddle Creek, introduces Hop Along to the masses. The album reads like a collection of short stories, leaving the metaphor and ambiguity of 2012’s Get Disowned behind and spinning narratives that pull you in like a great book.
The track “Horseshoe Crabs” exemplifies this beautifully. The song’s haunting melody perfectly accompanies the lyrics of loss illustrated through the lens of childhood memories about summertime adventures. Frontwoman Frances Quinlan reflects on memory throughout the album, memories that are pivotal to her – “Powerful Man” describes her fear and failure to intervene when, as a teenager, she saw a young child being abused by his father – but in some cases, the memories may not be the way others involved remember the situation.
Take “Waitress”: Quinlan blows up a frustrating, awkward scene in her head upon seeing somebody walk into her restaurant – “your friend looked over from the bar, she must have known who I was / the worst possible version of what I’d done” – but in reality, the people she’s waiting on may not have given the moment a second thought – “call you enemy because I’m afraid of what you could call me.” It definitely reflects that normal anxiety and overthinking self-consciousness that we are all prone to from time to time. Continue reading →
One of the most powerful moments on Hop Along‘s 2012 album Get Disowned is one of its quietest.
On the second side of a record filled with emotional, cathartic ragers and explosive youth anthems sits the melancholic, haunting ballad called “Trouble Found Me.” Like much of the album, the song abstractly relates the story of a character with schizophrenia – a family friend of frontwoman Frances Quinlan – and follows as he struggles through life, is pushed through hospitals and is generally failed by the healthcare system. “Trouble Found Me” is a point of aching realization of all this: as much for Quinlan the third-person narrator as it is for the character and even the listener who might not know about the story line at play.
This lyric in particular drives it home:
Once I thought being lost was only a part of being young / But the old man in the bed next to your cot was screaming louder than anyone / Saying mama mama mama, little white mice run across my bed while the nurses play poker outside / Oh my God, how is the other guy? I can’t believe someday I’m gonna die.
Quinlan sings that last line – “I can’t believe someday I’m gonna die” – in a whisper, matter-of-factly acknowledging our collective mortality not with fear but rather a resigned uncertainty. In the distance, a slide guitar moans. Is there a greater significance to this aimless trip we’re all on? My exit could be a long ways off, or it could be this week, and it leads me to pretty much the same place in either case. All those questions that keep you up at night, you know?
Hop Along’s excellent sophomore album Painted Shut is out today on Saddle Creek Records, and the band celebrates this Saturday night with a headlining show at Union Transfer. As the week unfolds, you’ll doubtless read a lot out there in the musical-journalistic space about what a bold record it is, how it’s unflinching and energetic, how it unpacks heavy ideas with equally heavy volume and energy. All of those points are absolutely accurate, and we’ll be weighing in on them all week long as we explore the album in Unlocked, The Key’s recurring spotlight on new and significant releases from Philadelphia-area artists.
But for me, again, the most powerful moment on Painted Shut might just be its quietest. Continue reading →