Indie rock band Hop Along’s latest album “Bark Your Head Off, Dog,” is easily one of the best records of 2018 so far, an addictive display of expert songwriting and vocal performances.
The Philadelphia band’s lead singer, Frances Quinlan, delivers an incredibly unique and varied performance across the album. Her voice is peppered with charming idiosyncrasies that keep each track engaging and fresh.
The band delivers an incredibly catchy hook on the second track, “Somewhere A Judge,” with Quinlan painting the image of an “afternoon vanilla sun” over bright arpeggiated guitars.
The next track, “How You Got Your Limp,” has a completely different, folksy feel. This song features a simple acoustic guitar, overlaid with short pieces of strings and whistling.
Although this variety is refreshing, Hop Along goes further, bringing worlds of the folk and indie rock together on the next track, “Not Abel.”
The track begins as a folk song, with familiar strings and acoustic guitar, then completely changes in its second half, changing into a rock tune with more catchy hooks and a perfect closing lead guitar lick.
“Not Abel” is a perfect example of the complex song structure that Hop Along delivers all across this album. Out of the nine tracks, only three follow anything close to a standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus formula.
Hop Along is at their strongest when they change the feeling of a song completely in the second half or add in extra hooks in triumphant outros.
The album’s penultimate song, “Look of Love,” is a perfect example. It starts as a spacy lo fi guitar ballad, then uses the full band for a few verses and choruses before closing with an outro composed of acapella-flavored vocals, crashing cymbals, and a bending guitar lead.
Quinlan delivers her strongest performance on the closing track, “Prior Things,” delivering visceral shouts and angelic whispers with equal control, showcasing her impressive range and character as a performer over layers of driving strings and layers of acoustic and electric guitar.
“Bark Your Head Off, Dog” is a quirky record with seemingly limitless character and polish. Rock albums this good are rare these days, so do yourself a favor and listen to it.