Frances Quinlan – Likewise

Hop Along's Frances Quinlan's solo debut is a bright and unconventional record that asks us to simply talk more

Album Review by Katie Cutforth | 28 Jan 2020
  • Frances Quinlan – Likewise
Album title: Likewise
Artist: Frances Quinlan
Label: Saddle Creek
Release date: 31 Jan

The brave and distinctive sound of Philadelphia four-piece Hop Along is inseparable from the startling voice of Frances Quinlan. Over melodies that undulate seemingly without logic, Quinlan’s vocals dart effortlessly between clarity and raspiness, ensuing a kind of controlled chaos to which the rest of the music becomes secondary. 

Quinlan’s debut solo release under her own name achieves something that is quite distinct. Unlike much of Hop Along’s discography, Likewise operates mostly in major keys. Crafted by Quinlan alongside Hop Along bandmate Joe Reinhart, the soundscape is lively and bright, making use of synths, digital drums, harps, strings and keyboards. Moments of despair are gorgeously balanced by tight, optimistic motifs that are dotted throughout the record. 

Quinlan is a remarkable and intimate storyteller, drawing us into her wild, unpredictable narratives and illuminating even the most ordinary of details. Piltdown Man recalls camping in a friend’s garden (‘Here comes your dad / Annoyed but wildly patient’), while Your Reply describes the novel Quinlan is reading. On lead single Rare Thing, she examines an unsettling dream she had about her baby niece, addressing the beloved child as her equal. The joy she finds in their bond is unbounded, bringing with it a new understanding of the power of pure, unconditional love: ‘I know there is love that doesn’t have to do with taking something from somebody’.

‘We should try again to talk’ is Quinlan’s imploration on Now That I’m Back, as she yearns for a human connection in relationships that has been neglected, lost or simply never formed. 'We are torn between our love and our shame', says Quinlan, asking people to communicate better with their loved ones – to share their innermost world, perhaps in the way she practices in her songwriting. Likewise is an empathetic nod to the listener; an invitation to openness.

Listen to: Your Reply, Rare Thing, Now That I’m Back