Album Review: Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog

Blending jangly girl-group harmonies with grinding punk guitars on nearly every track, Philadelphia indie-rock band Hop Along is back with another genre-bending record. The band’s fourth full-length, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, is out tomorrow, April 6, on Saddle Creek, and features forty minutes of intricate music that defies any categorization.

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There’s a smooth contrast between the rocking guitars, jangly pop melodies, and frontwoman Frances Quinlan’s silky vocals. She flips effortlessly between a falsetto and her lower range, with a crushed-velvet voice that carries both folky heartbreak and an upbeat attitude, and it meshes perfectly with the thick instrumentals.

On the album’s opening track, “How Simple”, Quinlan croons, “How simple my heart can be frightens me.” It’s a back-and-forth about a frustrating love situation and is arguably Hop Along’s poppiest, most danceable moment. Still, there’s a touch of dissonance thrown in from time to time.

The sound is a slight return to the band’s string-filled second album, Get Disowned, and despite intricate rhythms and poppy girl-group harmonies, there’s an accessibility to the band’s sound. There are moments, like a light whistling line in “How You Got Your Limp” or the occasional interjection from the strings, that come as quick breaths among the otherwise-intense music.

However, Hop Along never lets its listeners get comfortable. Between the addictingly catchy sing-along choruses, quirky elements are thrown in; a tangy electronic line, a bendy bass lick, and even a brief moment with a vocoder make appearances throughout the album.

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Photo by Tonje Thilesen.

Hop Along has never been one to stick to traditional genre boundaries, and on Bark Your Head Off, Dog, the band has smeared the lines between sounds more than ever before. The sing-along choruses and pop-rock melodies are impossibly sticky, and the album is familiar while still maintaining its classic infectiousness. Make sure to check out Bark Your Head Off, Dog, out tomorrow on Saddle Creek.

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