Frances Quinlan: Likewise (Saddle Creek) - Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, April 6th, 2020  

Frances Quinlan

Likewise

Saddle Creek

Feb 03, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


For its strong humanist streak, ironically Hop Along leader Frances Quinlan's solo album, Likewise, opens with an array of teeth and bones. The Piltdown Man of the same named opening track may have been a fraud, but Quinlan speaks only in truths. And ones that are fully wrapped in flesh that hide only a pulsing heart. Whether sparked of her own memory or inspired by literary touchstones, Quinlan's observations are sharp but delivered sympathetically.

Accompanied throughout by Hop Along companion Joe Reinhart, Likewise is sparer than Quinlan's work with her band. But there is plenty of room for sonic variations over its course. The aforementioned "Piltdown Man," with its basketball gymnasium found sounds, evokes the precision of recollection of a childhood sleepover remarkably well: a grouchy, but affable dad, sleep deprived mom, and a dog that finds more than a bone. Any suburbanite can relate to the tale that Quinlan weaves through a tumble of Wurlitzer chords.

The more fully developed musical moments here include the athletic run through "Your Reply."  Though instrumentation over the album is typically sparse, here Quinlan and Reinhart make the most of it. The following lilt of "Rare Thing" takes its time, but slowly incorporates most of the handful of contributors on the album, including a couple of brushes across the strings by the ever-present harpist Mary Lattimore.

Primarily though, Likewise's most stripped down moments also provide the deepest connections.  Quinlan's vocals are front and center on the melodic "Went to LA" as a strummed acoustic guitar crosses paths with Lattimore at several intervals, even if it gets a little ragged in the end.  While the following "Lean" shows Quinlan at her most open-hearted which is accented by a nostalgic arrangement of strings and whistles. The final two tracks, including a cover of Built to Spill's "Carry the Zero" that thematically feels a bit out of place, start to lose the album's focus and don't translate as well as what comes before them.

The compositions here tend to be wordy, but rarely repeat, allowing Quinlan to fill Likewise with many memorable passages. Lines like "I love that quick delay before your face alights in recognition" read like words spoken to family and affirm that what Quinlan values most are the people around her. Look no further than the six interns mentioned in the credits to see that interaction is all that Quinlan needs to power her. Likewise may not be the album that brings new fans to the fold, but those already on the Hop Along bandwagon will eat this up. If Likewise doesn't quite hold up down the stretch there is still much here to recommend it. And maybe more importantly it gives the listener insight into one of the most literate band leaders out there.  (www.francesquinlan.com

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10



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