Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Hop Along – How Simple

Philly-based indie band makes its first Jukebox appearance, successfully avoids snide jokes on the song’s title…


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Joshua Copperman: I feel like it’s almost a music critic rite-of-passage to describe Frances Quinlan’s voice — it’s usually something like “Janis Joplin and [other artist] thrown into a blender,” but she sounds like the choppy, whirring blender itself. At this point, much like Sam Herring around the time Future Islands broke through, she’s not only established her voice, she’s manipulated it to switch between different modes — Herring has the Tom Jones/Tom Waits dichotomy, and Frances goes between typical scratchiness and a beautiful, rarely-deployed falsetto in the chorus. She’s definitely a focal point of the song, but also farther back in the mix than expected; instead, Mark Quinlan’s steady drums are in the front. It seems like a strange choice, but towards the end, when the band is chanting “We will both find out/just not together,” the focus on rhythm suddenly makes sense. By the time the acoustic guitar comes in during that extended outro, the song reveals itself as the three-and-a-half-minute pop song it’s been the whole time. They snuck a minor masterpiece right under our noses.
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Ryo Miyauchi: “How Simple” doesn’t come with obvious affects like Francis Quinlan’s signature howl in “The Waitress” to emphasize her show of vulnerability. But it’s there, written in smaller print and more subtle imagery. Quinlan still stammers trying to put together the right set of lines despite the support from a more collected guitar riff, and it serves the song’s narrative that she finally offers a perfect closing word — “don’t worry, we will both find out, just not together” — after many stumbles to get there.
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Alfred Soto: The rhythm changes, sudden oh-oh-ohs, drum solos, and harsh guitar parts cohere into a listening experience that compensates for the boring, amateurish vocal. 
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Julian Axelrod: At this point it’s almost cliché to talk about Hop Along in the context of Frances Quinlan’s inimitable voice. It does a disservice to the band’s innate chemistry, which is in top form here as they leapfrog between gritty gossamer riffs over the pogo churn of an unrelenting rhythm section. It also ignores their sense of dynamics, which is important considering no one in indie rock does anguished crescendoes quite like Hop Along. It even obscures Quinlan’s deadpan lyrics, which tie up a hard-fought past and a hopeless future into the beautifully simple title line. But every time I listen to Hop Along I come back to that voice, because the way it bends and curdles and soars in a single line contains more emotion than any arrangement or turn of phrase could hope to convey.
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Maxwell Cavaseno: A blend of moments that wouldn’t sound out of place from either Rilo Kiley, Pavement or Sebadoh, and proceeds to churn along diligently without being too bold in its progression. Quinlan’s vocal is creaky like a tree branch, but her lyrics are equally tense in ways that fracture under too much pressure. Indie rock that doesn’t offer much of a refresher from what’s proceeded it for the past two decades, but no doubt is a familiar comfort.
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Katherine St Asaph: Rilo Kiley-adjacent indie rock I might have been into in college. I always assumed this sort of music would forever be just there, accessible and replicated into perpetuity, never associated with the past. Kind of heartening some’s still around.
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Joshua Minsoo Kim: A lot of slacker indie rock from the ’90s provides a sort of headspace that reminds me of the frustrations I have with all my aspirations being thwarted by my own laziness or lack of ability. It can leave me paralyzed, wavering between embittered anger and complete numbness. “How Simple” fills me with those exact feelings. Even worse, I find many of the song’s parts incongruous and think the whole thing is poorly structured. And yet, hearing Quinlan repeat that one line — “Don’t worry, we will both find out, just not together” — snaps everything into place. More accurately, it leaves everything as is and posits that I needn’t stress out so much. I don’t know if I can, but that line makes me believe it’s possible.
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2 Responses to “Hop Along – How Simple”

  1. I loved Painted Shut, was slightly underwhelmed by How Simple. Doesn’t quite have the immediacy of nearly all the tracks on that album. If the song appealed to you at all, you should definitely check out that album. And the new one that dropped today is a chamber pop epic: https://hopalong.bandcamp.com/track/not-abel

  2. Not Abel is difficult to wrap my head around, but in a good way. I’m really looking forward to the album.

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