Hop Along – Painted Shut
So, the Nineties. They were quite the time, right? So it would seem, at any rate, from the state of popular culture right now. Twilight brought back flannel fashion for a while, making me wonder for several years if I’d stepped back in time to a Nirvana concert, or if maybe I’d just gotten blackout drunk and woken up in rural Washington. Now all I see around town are girls in crop tops and floral print pants, Blossom-style. Jurassic Park is killing at the box office, the U.S. election is shaping up to be Bush vs. Clinton, and I think I saw someone with frosted tips the other day. Hold me. I’m scared.
Musically we’re seeing signs of nostalgic flashbacks from people who should chronologically only barely remember any year starting with “19”. Yuck thought Dinosaur, Jr. was awesome; Speedy Ortiz is a big fan of crunchy American indie rock circa 1996; Joey Bada$$ really wishes that Illmatic and Enter The Wu Tang just came out yesterday. Further on, we have exhibit D: Hop Along, the Saddle Creek-signed project of Frances Quinlan, former freak folk enthusiast. At first blush it’s crunchy college rock for college kids who attended college just as Felicity was making college look far more glamorous than it really was. There are subtle signs of something deeper buried within, however: the circling vocal strikes of Quinlan, who seems at times the sum of Ben Gibbard, Conor Oberst, and Jeremy Enigk; the gnarled lead guitar lines that are as much inspired by early Modest Mouse as anything else; the smoky, country undertone to the slower tracks, especially the darker ballad “Horseshoe Crabs”. There’s more to Painted Shut than simple rote 90s worship, which is important to note as we move headalong into an era that promises nothing but.