13 February 2020 | Blog

February 12 – February 18

Growing up between New Jersey and Quakertown Pennsylvania, Frances Quinlan is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Known primarily for her role as lead singer of Indie quartet Hop Along, Quinlan handed out burned CD copies of her first solo album, Freshman Year around her college campus in 2005. Wanting a more fleshed out sound, Frances stated that “I would envy full ensembles because I thought that a band inherently carries more energy than a person does solo”, Frances recruited her brother Mark and bassist Tyler Long several years later.

The trio started playing together regularly and working on releasing the first album under the Hop Along name in 2012, Get Disowned. The band would take on one more member, lead guitarist Joe Reinhardt, and release their sophomore album Painted Shut with Indie Rock label Saddle Creek to critical acclaim for its immediacy and emotional depth.

Following the release of their 2018 album Bark Your Head Off, Dog, the band stayed relatively quiet for almost two years; until the single Rare Thing was released under Frances‘ name on the 22nd of October 2019. The uniquely brazen Quinlan was gearing up to release her first solo work in fifteen years titled Likewise on the 31st of January 2020. Full of endearing lyrics and backed by minimal instrumentation including Electric Piano and Wurlitzer, Likewise is a magical, nostalgia inducing journey from back to front.

Quinlan’s intensely beautiful and varied vocal melodies and lyrics, combined with the dynamic yet subtle instrumentation, creates some of the prettiest, most thoughtful Indie Pop/Soft Rock currently around. Piltdown Man serves as the introduction to the album: as the sounds of sneakers squeaking on a gym floor and children playing fade out and the Wurlitzer perfectly drops in.

Interestingly, the nostalgia infused Piltdown Man was originally going to be the albums final song, opposed to the first. This was a stylistic choice on Frances’ behalf: instead of ending on the sadder, nostalgia ladened opening track, Quinlan wanted the album to flow as naturally as possible from back to front and as such, decided to close the album on a more joyous note with her cover of seminal 2000’s Indie band Built To Spill’s Carry The Zero.

The album talks at lengths about dreams and sleep in general, though rarely is it in a comforting manner. The final line on Piltdown Man: “In the afternoon you both fell asleep, still knowing more than me”, as the tempo quickens on Rare Thing: “Come to think of it, the dream was a nightmare with no one who knew me”, or referencing Spanish surrealist painter, Salvador Dali on Now That I’m Back: “Voltaire’s severed head stared me back to bed”. Not only are these examples of Quinlan extremely effectively using recurring themes throughout this piece, but say more about the general populations relationship with sleep and dreams, and how much meaning and energy we choose to (or not to) put into them.

Frances‘ vocals stand at their most intoxicating, dynamic and unique on tracks like A Secret and Went To LA. On the former, shifting from a subdued folk track, backed solely by acoustic guitar and subtle bass, to a boppy, folk ballad as Quinlan declares “Most of this isn’t even a secret”. Or on Went To LA as we get to experience the singers voice pushed to it’s limits; as she wails her way through one of the strongest moments on the album, and eventually screams “Heaven is a second chance” repeatedly on the outro of the song.

Both Frances Quinlan and Hop Along stand as two of the most interesting names in Indie music in 2020. The use of particularly nuanced instrumentation like Harp and a literal plethora of different types of Keys (Piano, Electric Piano, Wurlitzer, Organ etc), combined with one of the most phenomenal and interesting voices around right now, very easily make this one of the strongest, most endearing releases this year so far.