“Stranger in India, I’m gonna be creepin’ on you so hard. You’re seducin’ Tibetan pop stars, and wreckin’ motor-cars.”
Frances Quinlan’s got a way with words.
The singer-guitarist aims for that sweet spot on the beautiful/mysterious X-Y axis. There’s humor and creative self-loathing, songs about love and grief. There’s thoughtfulness and recklessness. There are conspicuously memorable phrases that feel like references, but Google usually disagrees. The Stranger in India was an 1843 book on gardening or something. (Is that relevant? I don’t know.) Wherever “creepin’ on you so hard” came from, it’s all hers now.
Get Disowned — Hop Along’s brilliant first album as a full band (before that it was Quinlan’s bedroom-pop solo project) — is a tornadic swirl of elegant non sequiturs. You don’t always know what she means, but you know she means it.
And it’s not just what she says, it’s the way she says it. Quinlan’s voice is not classically lovely — Franz Nicolay compared it to “a feral Rilo Kiley.” It’s gritty and passionate. It’s always bolting past its natural breaking points, and coloring outside the melody with smart-alecky abandon.
On the title track, she starts singing “meteor, make me young” like an Are You There God? prayer, but soon she’s belting it out like an indie-rock Nina Simone. Other lines let the heartbreak perch, deadpan, a centerpiece you can’t see past. “There are some parents whose children long for divorce,” she repeats with an odd, heavenly joy on the folkish, mood-swinging “Diamond Mine.”
Musically, Hop Along is similarly mischievous. Quinlan has found zealous co-conspirators in bassist Tyler Long and drummer Mark Quinlan (her brother). The three are equally adept at thundering punk and stargazing folk, and even the detours into experimental cacophony are catchy. However counterintuitive, it all fits together.
Ultimately, that may be what willed Hop Along to victory in the Local Artist of the Year battle royale. This band did it their way, creating a cohesive and confident rock album that defies you to accept it (and maybe doesn’t care if you do). “Everybody is a little hard to love sometimes,” Quinlan shrugs on “No Good Al Joad.” “You are my favorite, because you’re a long shot.”
MORE IN TOP MUSIC OF 2012
- Top 21 Albums of the Year
- Rounding Out the Top 50
- Favorite Songs of 2012
- Top 10 Jazz
- Top 10 Classical
- Top 10 Roots
Follow more of our music coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our A&E blog, Critical Mass.