Hop Along are back, finally. The Philadelphia-based indie rock quartet, fronted by Frances Quinlan and built around her staggering voice, put their fourth LP, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, up on NPR this morning. You can listen to it in full right now. You should.
The band have taken the blueprint laid down on 2015's brilliant Painted Shut – one of Noisey's favourite records that year – and sketched around it, building something bolder and more ambitious. Quinlan's engrossing and versatile voice – a whisper one moment, a rasp the next – is still the immediate standout, but the structures are more supple now. Opener "How Simple," for example, opens with Quinlan alone above an acoustic, switches into a steadily anxious verse, loosens up into a pretty eight-bar interlude ("How simple my heart / Can be"), and then bops into a danceable, sing-along refrain: "Don't worry / We will both find out / Just not together." That's less than 90 seconds into the record.
The seams don't show though. Even on "Not Abel" with its wavering strings and constantly-changing pace and reworked biblical allusions, Hop Along seem to be following their own emotional momentum. There's pages upon pages to be written about Quinlan's intricate lyricism and knack for storytelling, the way that she can wryly declare at the beginning of the album's second song, "Somewhere a Judge," that we've just had "the beginning and the end." In the meantime, listen to the album at NPR, and pick it apart line-by-line.
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This article originally appeared on Noisey US.