Bark Your Head Off, Dog, out since the last Spring, is the acclaimed third album by Hop Along (as a band). It is a well-thought, cared and self-produced work coming to light around three years after Painted Shut.
Frances Quinlan’s unique vocals imprint the record, nonetheless a quasi-perfect democracy between instrumental elements and singing. Bark Your Head Off, Dog is a form of choral story-telling, punctuated by internal variations and thorough carving of details. The result is nine songs, one by one building up a framework where each of them looks like an episode in a stereo-mode indie book.
Not Abel stands out as a literature-reading in music. It is a gentle masterpiece, where melodic lightness has its counterpart in thematic burdens. It is also vividly folk in its turmoil, like a “sunset on a time when no words could be spared”. The change of rhythm in the last section is perfectly laid out, in a proud crescendo where the bass appears and the growing guitar switches electric.
A similar musical structure appears in Look Of Love, which also contains the line giving the album its name. In this song, the shift between different rhythms and harmonies is the musical notepad for a sequence of recalled memories.
Hop Along steadily manage to put together visions by lyrics, walking away from the obvious, often abandoning linear narrations in favour of image-evocative sequences. The conscience, history, justice, personal and collective guilt, writing about writing. Intertwining the world and the self, throughout reflective moments and sensorial perception, sometimes getting lost amid new, different shapes.
At the same time, complexity and witty composition are wrapped in finely chosen, often light melodies. How Simple is an interesting initial statement, where a catchy, disco-pop refrain stays upbeat without bypassing the content-thickness. It shows that accessible does not mean plain, and not even an easy vacation from creativity and instrumental experimentation.
The opposite end of the repertoire, Prior Things concludes the journey as a clever demonstration of pleasantness, in an indie-pop dimension where violins and smart words can naturally live together. As if literature could take a different texture, pour out shredded from the speakers and then remould up in the air, in the soft vortex of a few chords.