In 2015, Philadelphia band Hop Along garnered critical raves and established a growing cult audience with its third LP, Painted Shut. The album’s chunky, straight-forward riffs lumped Hop Along in with the city’s thriving punk and emo scene. But the band’s raspy-voiced singer Frances Quinlan was a more thoughtful lyricist than many of her peers, exhibiting an expressive, conversational intimacy associated with many of the singer-songwriters she listened to as a teenager, including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, and Conor Oberst.
Hop Along’s latest LP, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, sounds more like the artists that Quinlan heard in her formative years. Whereas Painted Shut essentially was a “show up and plug in” affair, Hop Along took its time crafting Bark Your Head Off at the Philly studio owned by guitarist Joe Reinhart and local musician and engineer Kyle Pulley.
The string sections and layered instrumentation of standout tracks like “How You Got Your Limp” and “One That Suits Me” are immediately apparent. More subtle but no less important is the polished pop songcraft of “Somewhere A Judge,” which could be a bookish Paramore song. The result is a “grower” record that isn’t as immediate or visceral as Painted Shut, though it will likely deepen over subsequent listens.
Quinlan spoke by phone recently about how the album was made, and how she succeeded in finding her own voice by failing to effectively mimic her heroes.