Hop Along


With their latest release, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, Hop Along have forged a more mature and glossy album compared to their earlier works. They have side-lined their previous DIY and low-fi sounding ethos for a tighter result. The interesting song structures and intertwining melodies have been brought forward in the mix and are less rough around the edges. They have dropped some of the older pretension for a superbly enjoyable and listenable experience. The distinctive vocals of Frances Quinlan, characterising their earlier work has stayed. A delivery that flickers between honeyed, raspy, passionate and half broken, a voice that’s hard to pin down and so individual to Frances. Their new direction is also a lot more pop-funk. It reminds me of the latest Paramore album. It is an album to put you in a Summer mood no matter what season you’re in, and I’ve been listening to it Spring through Winter since its release in April. I have been giddy with excitement to see this band live for even longer.

Hop Along seem as happy to play as I am to watch them, with drummer Mark Quinlin excitedly pointing at members of the crowd during off-beat moments in tracks with huge grins, while guitarist Joe Reinhart and multi-instrumentalist Chrissy Tashjian boogie around the stage. They begin their set with songs from the new album, ‘How Simple’ and ‘Somewhere A Judge’. The latter sounds like a hazy fond memory, sonically sending you to times spent with friends. With the former just being a downright ear pleaser. It’s a perfect start!

The set doesn’t just comprise of new material, Classics such as ‘Tibetan Pop Stars’ and ‘The Knock’ are propelled at the crowd for a much more immediate middle section. These mighty tracks add a great dynamic to the evening as they culminate in a controlled wall of elongated guitar. It’s not often Hop Along bring out the powerful guitar strikes, mostly allowing the passionate vocal delivery to provide the intensity over interesting indie musicality. But when they unload, it works well. They are a band full of surprises, providing intrigue in which ever instrument you focus on.

Finishing by moving back to newer material, ‘Not Abel’ is a favourite. A first half that sounds slightly Joanna Newsom, before a whirl of noise allows a quick change in guitar and a strummed acoustic finish. It’s a great track to show off the diversity Hop Along can offer. The whole set is dynamic and well balanced between old and new, a stunning performance.

The Decemberists

The Decemberists make their way onto the stage to Greig’s ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’. An epic opening that sounds brilliant in the looming arches of the Albert Hall. It does well to set the huge crowd into a fever with hearty cheers. A band with 8 albums under their belt, the Decemberists have accumulated an impassioned following, and judging by the noise of the crowd, all are here tonight.

They are a pleasant brand of American rock. Well-practised and polished with frontman Colin Meloy’s live vocals sounding like if Brian Molko did folk. They are even more proficient at playing the devoted audience. The enthusiasm of the crowd is used to full effect. Songs such as ‘We All Die Young’ are executed in a call and answer fashion, after a comedic start of audience ineptitude at the three phrase line, “we all die, we all die, young”. ‘Billy Liar’ gets a full choral treatment with different areas of the room, from balcony to the floor, assigned various parts. Everyone is eager to get involved, but I’m glad I’m not in the balcony for the allocation of high notes!

The show is a tour through their back catalogue, touching on songs throughout their career. Highlights are ‘The Crane Wife 1 and 2,’ being a fan favourite, and ‘Severed’ being my favourite, with beautiful keyboard accompaniments by Jenny Conlee. You can tell this is a band that has been refining itself and their live performance for 18 years, The night is delightful and every track is immaculate in its delivery.

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