With their follow up their stellar sophomore record Painted Shut out next week, Philly indie rock quartet Hop Along have released "Prior Things", the third single and album closer from their upcoming album Bark Your Head Off, Dog. While first single "How Simple" continued very inline with what fans of Hop Along have come to expect of Frances Quinlan and crew in terms of straightforward composition with just the right amount of lyrical vagueness, "Not Abel" shook up the band's standard formula by presenting a song with distinct moving parts. "Prior Things" arrives to more or less split the difference between the two - continuing to use the strings that were first presented in the denouement of "How Simple" and instead introducing them right at the start before Quinlan even offers the track's first line. The strings are bright and spritely, conjuring the sunny, summer day where the song seems set to take place. Quinlan sings of a chance encounter - spotting a vacationer reading. Perhaps more so than any other song we've heard so far - Quinlan is the least explanatory. Her thoughts spill out of her, but they're much more like observations than judgments even as she places herself both inside and outside of the narrative. "You were on vacation, vacation means leave, means obliterate all prior things" Quinlan croons and it's the first instance of that meeting sidelining other motivations.
Quinlan's narrative is mostly concerned with her thoughts and feelings in this particular moment even as she tries and fails to understand the concerns of the other party. "What must happen in your mind when you create those silences - nevermind I don't want to see, it's got nothing to do with me" she offers. "Prior Things" is a bustling sprawl that sees Quinlan at a particular vulnerable moment as she ponders in idyllic string augmented tapestries just where she fits into everything. Quinlan drops listeners right into the thick of her thought process, establishing context first but quickly moving on from the external to her more internal conflict. Quinlan offers up a wealth of information, gradually but surely but makes no attempts to sort any of it for you. The listener becomes more emotional passenger than confidante, viewing the scenes from the safety of Quinlan recollection. Quinlan's never been a songwriter who offers conclusive "I feel" statements instead allowing her emotive vocals and stream-of-conscious style do much of the heavy lifting and music place setting. Ultimately, "Prior Things" succeeds because you don't needs to know the specifics. It's a song not only open to interpretation but a fair bit of projection and that makes it strangely universal.
Hop Along's third full length album Bark Your Head Off, Dog available April 6th on Saddle Creek Records. Pre-order is available now.