Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Listen: Hop Along - "How Simple"

Well this is a welcome surprise. Despite the fact that Philly rockers Hop Along got a little playful in the revealing of their upcoming new album Bark Your Head Off, Dog through mysterious clues left via social media last week, I was still wholly unexpecting to get a taste of it so quickly. "How Simple", the album opener and first single from the upcoming album, is a quick, uncomplicated reintroduction to songwriter Frances Quinlan and the rest of her merry band. Quinlan, despite the immediacy open contained in her vocals, has never been a particular straightforward songwriter - preferring instead to have her subjects twist and turn in ways that are much more human than a direct narrative would. "How Simple" essentially finds Quinlan employing the same sense of delayed gratification as she subtly reveals the song's core subject: a nervous dategoer. But even though Quinlan prefers to gradually reveal a song's twists and turns, she's a little more explicit here. "Pale as a banshee sun - think I should stop checking myself out in the windows of cars when I can see my future in her pictures of relatives" Quinlan offers in a musical stage whisper. It isn't until after the second verse after the abstract chorus that the other shoe drops. "Don't worry, we will both find out just not together". It's the sort of reveal a songwriter might save until the end of a song but Quinlan offers it up readily and presses onward.

"How Simple" is a song that doesn't ever shift perspective even as it shifts in time and mood. The story has changed but Quinlan's knack for narratives that concern themselves with how one phrase can encapsulate a colossal moment and how a particular character might respond to that is a skill she's deployed since Hop Along's debut. The only difference is, with more songs/albums under their belt, it's easy to see the quiet genius in Quinlan's semi stream-of-consciousness songwriting. She offers clues in seemingly off-the-cuff statements are phrases and then after her reveals, moves on, to give power to not the reveal but the aftershock. "How Simple" is simple and sweet, a lovely examination of how one's own feelings/experiences can color a situation or shield you from an obvious truth. Nothing's ever simple in matters of the heart and Quinlan perfectly captures that both throughout in the song itself and in it's somewhat ironic chorus "How simple the heart can be frightens me". 

Bark Your Head Off, Dog, the third full length album from Hop Along is out April 6th on Saddle Creek. Pre-order is available now.

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