The beauty of Hop Along’s music has always been inextricably linked to Frances Quinlan’s exposed vocals, which could be described as a “graceful scream.” As central as her voice is to the band’s latest record, Painted Shut, it becomes especially vulnerable in an environment as bare and stripped-down as NPR’s Tiny Desk. Their concert took the space’s rawness and amplified it exponentially as Quinlan’s emotion swelled throughout the entire performance.
“Hey, did you hear me Mom?” she breathily winces through bared teeth and closed eyes, as Hop Along begins their set with “Horseshoe Crab.” The sung melody stops just short of tears as the band joins in and crescendos, with Quinlan’s murmurs morphing effortlessly into strained, raspy cries.
Each song in the short set ebbs and flows, using transitions from lonely vocals to full-band loudness and back again to their emotive advantage. The intro to “Well-Dressed” leaves Quinlan to her own devices as she moans over her own sparse guitar while the rest of the band looks on, swaying silently. As her whimpering reaches an emotive head, drums crash, the bass thunders, and Joe Reinhart strums passionately on his acoustic guitar.
Hop Along’s music always feels deeply personal, but it seems even more private in this video from behind the Tiny Desk. You may be watching on your computer screen and listening in your headphones, but it’s hard to fathom how this performance could feel more intimate.