Hop Along explores new textures with confidence on ‘How Simple’

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 7:56pm

On “How Simple,” Philly-based indie rock band Hop Along combines more instruments on a single track than they ever have before. The single arrives ahead of the group’s third album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Scheduled to release in just over two months on Apr. 6, the album is their first since 2015’s Painted Shut (though their 2012 debut, Get Disowned, was reissued in 2016). The track signals not a shift in the quartet’s style, but an elaboration upon the impeccable style they already possess. “How Simple” opens with acoustic strumming, Frances Quinlan’s singular voice jumping in immediately, almost as if she’d been waiting this entire time.

Soon after, electric guitar, percussion and then synthesizer enter the mix. While Mark Quinlan’s drumming propels the piece forward for the majority of its duration, other instruments dip in for short bouts, rarely remaining for more than 25 seconds. The song is just under four minutes, but feels epic as it moves through countless overlapping but distinct motifs — there’s even what sounds like a hand-clap sample at one point. “How Simple” is a journey through various stages of unrest, anxiety and fear, though Quinlan’s voice never quite cracks as we’ve heard it do before. Nonetheless, her performance is emotive as ever. “How simple my heart can be / Frightens me,” she sings during a section that most closely resembles a chorus. As the song draws to a close, we’re treated to a calming violin melody, which pairs quite nicely with Quinlan’s voice as the two reach a disarmingly content conclusion.