no. 26 — Painted Shut by Hop Along

Technically, Hop Along is a band from Philly, but because the lead singer went to MICA, I think of them as a Baltimore band. I also think of them this way because all my Baltimore friends love them. I feel like Hop Along belongs to me and my friends as a collective; they aren’t just a band that’s shaped my life and my music tastes, they’re a band that have been the soundtrack to many of my relationships.

If we’re still going chronologically to my own life (we are) Painted Shut was the album that had come out when I first heard of Hop Along. It was an instant hit in the way Hop Along’s music always is. Frances Quinlan, the lead singer, writes the kind of lyrics that make you work just a little to decipher. Her voice distorts words in a raspy, melodic cadence that is both contagiously sweet and disarming. I find myself singing along, but unless I look up the lyrics, I can’t be sure I know what I’m saying. When I do finally look up the lyrics, I find a poem, decoded to find an intricate narrative steeped in musical history and literature.

Hop Along makes the kind of music I don’t seem to hear anywhere else. Sure, they have roots in rock and indie and folk, but they push and intertwine those boundaries with each song. Some have strings, others have sing-along style choruses, and others could easily incite mosh pits. Some of their songs are purposefully choppy, melodies and choruses halting right when you’re halfway through getting into their groove, switching up in a sudden, alarming way. The albums feel cohesive regardless of this scope of genres and refrains, looped together by familiar riffs, repeating lyrics, and, ultimately, Hop Along’s fantastic skill in constructing songs.

I don’t know if this is really something that makes sense, but listening to Hop Along makes me feel smart. In the sense that reading The Odyssey and Pablo Neruda and actually understanding it without going on spark notes, listening to Hop Along feels similar. It feels like a band I can be proud of loving without pretention[1]. Maybe it’s just that I feel like a cool Art Kid who can pull off a beanie[2] when I play their albums. Maybe it’s that I’m an English Major and listened to Painted Shut while reading Moby Dick, therefore always associating the two with each other. Maybe it’s that I have a crush on Frances Quinlan for being smart and funny and cool and pretty and good at music. Probably, it’s a combination of all of those things. But mostly, I think I like Hop Along because they’re just Good, which doesn’t need any further justification.

I also really love their newest album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog. And their older album, Get Disowned. Painted Shut is the middle child of these three, and I feel like they intertwine with each other, making conversation across the years. Listen to Hop Along here.

[1] Ok, some pretention. Ok, ok, a lot of pretention, especially with the literature I just referenced. I’m sorry. Please listen to Hop Along anyway, even though I’m flexing my reading history.

[2] I cannot pull off a beanie. Especially not when they’re rolled up into little condoms / yarmulkes the way art boys wear them.

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Jenna Sylvester

Jenna Sylvester

non-binary writer and gardener. I'm stressed out.