Reviewed by: Matt Kelchner
Three years ago there were murmurs from a handful of outlets that a relatively unknown band from Philadelphia had released one of the best albums of the year. The band? Hop Along. Their debut album, Get Disowned, was not widely covered but when it was, only good things were said. Fast forward to 2015 and things are a bit different for their sophomore effort, Painted Shut.
Back in the beginning of this year, Omaha, NE based label Saddle Creek Records announced the addition of Hop Along to their roster. Celebrated producer John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile) would be assisting with the process. One by one, as each new single would be realized, anticipation grew. With the big spotlights from major publications taking direct aim, Hop Along are ready to take the torch as the next breakout artist from Philadelphia.
The album picks up right where Get Disowned left the band. Lyrically, Painted Shut takes a more personal and emotional approach. Singer/guitarist Francis Quinlan’s ability to weave stories shine from beginning to end. From those moments of seeing ex-lovers in the restaurants described on “Waitress” to the detailing of watching a father strike his child on “Powerful Man”, Quinlan details these while tip toeing the line of lofty, airy and gritty vocal delivery. The frontwoman’s songwriting has always been a highlight in her songs and that streak continues in Painted Shut.
The other standout quality of the album is the maturation of the instrumentation. Painted Shut is very much so guitar driven. Dancing melodies can be found intertwining with humming and buzzing courtesy of Joe Reinhart and Quinlan. All the while, bassist Tyler Long and drummer/brother Mark Quinlan are dialed in and keep the each song moving along. As a whole, Painted Shut feels more cohesive and focused compared to previous efforts. The past hasn’t been forgotten though. Nestled snuggly in the middle of the tracklist is “Happy To See Me”, a touching tune that offers a look into Quinlan’s folk upstarts. Closing out the album is the country-tinged “Sister Cities”, previously released as part of the Shaking Through series via local nonprofit Weathervane Music and the group’s only release between albums.
Just like Get Disowned in 2012, don’t be surprised if you find Painted Shut on top 10 lists come the end of the year, although this time around, it won’t be few and far between.