Philadelphia’s Hop Along has quietly carved out a name for themselves over the course of four albums since 2005’s debut Freshman Year. That name, now, seems highly appropriate, as with their newest release, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, it seems that they’ve entered their senior year as a band, so to speak. Not only is Bark Your Head Off, Dog garnering them the best reviews and most attention of their career, it’s truly their most solid and affecting effort yet. They were reaping the rewards of their hard work at Austin’s Barracuda on Tuesday, June 19 in front of a full house, screaming and even moshing to the band’s lilting melodies.
Opening with the absolutely killer opening track of Bark Your Head Off, “How Simple,” Hop Along immediately reeled in the shoulder to shoulder crowd. When they asked who saw them at South by Southwest earlier in the year, almost the entire audience erupted. Make no mistake, this show was a victory lap.
Hop Along’s music can be described as being effervescent and yet at the same time melancholy. If there’s a cultural touchstone to connect them to, it might be Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors era. There are disco beats, soaring, singalong vocal melodies, and uplifting guitar solos that hide how distinctly depressive the lyrics skew. Even singer Frances Quinlan’s occasionally raspy and screechy vocals, especially live, evoke a Stevie Nicks quality.
What makes Hop Along distinct in a world of indie bands who could also fit that description is the complexity of their song arrangements. Tracks like “Not Abel” build and grow, transforming halfway through into an almost totally different pattern. The almost progressive mentality of the songwriting and the jagged guitar riffs make Hop Along distinct, yet somewhat hard to follow at times. There were a few times the audience seemed to lose the plot. Even the band started losing it at one point, having to restart a song because they lost their rhythm. It’s possibly their greatest strength, yet the only thing holding their melodies back from becoming truly transcendent.
When the band was on though, they were on. Hop Along have developed into some of the best young songwriters in the game, but their live show makes them sound a million times larger and brighter than their studio recordings. Their sound could fill an arena, and quite possibly will very soon.