Best Albums of 2015: ‘Painted Shut’ by Hop Along (No. 7)

Photo by Shervin Lainez.

Photo by Shervin Lainez.

Frances Quinlan sings like she means it. The Hop Along frontwoman is a force on “Painted Shut,” the Philadelphia band’s second full-length album and No. 7 on my ongoing countdown of the top 10 albums of 2015.

Quinlan is capable of great power, ratcheting her voice up until it stings like Beijing smog, or dialing back to sing with a breathy sweetness that never quite sheds the grit that gives her vocals character. For all the raw-throat abrasion she can summon, Quinlan is always tuneful, too, and it’s a dizzying combination as she hurls her voice through “Texas Funeral” or lets loose, then pulls back, on opener “The Knock,” where her voice is surrounded by gnashing guitars and a steady drum beat that becomes a bristling curtain of cymbals as the song builds.

Hop Along shows a fondness for big, bright guitars on “Painted Shut” (some credit there to co-producer John Agnello, who has a knack for capturing punchy guitar sounds), with a trebly cascade of notes falling around Quinlan’s vocals on “The Waitress,” a terse riff punctuating “Powerful Man” and lacerating unison parts on the galloping album closer “Sister Cities.” Elsewhere, the arrangements are more minimal, and Quinlan sings over acoustic guitar on “Happy to See Me,” murmurs softly over the piano vamp that starts “Horseshoe Crabs” and lets her voice carry the drama of “Well-dressed” before a huge guitar riff washes through.

It all makes for a fierce, forceful album that reveals new depths every time through.

 

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