Album Review: Frances Quinlan – “Likewise”

Posted: by The Editor

Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan is no stranger to grooving, rhythmic song structure, and her solo album Likewise is no exception. 

In Likewise, Quinlan’s voice is a classical violin. It’s control, tone, and deliverance of unique melodies are similar to her singing in Hop Along, but presented in an unorthodox way. While Hop Along’s music is very guitar/drum driven, Likewise is the opposite. Quinlan’s instrumentation leaves room for her voice to take over and play a larger role in driving the record forward. Her defining grit is still present, but in a more calculated, and at times, sensitive way. 

The album’s opening track “Piltdown Man” begins with a field recording that sounds like a school gymnasium. You hear children mixed with squeaky shoes, and then the warmth of a Rhodes piano, a defining instrument on this album. Quinlan sings of Charles Dawson’s scientific yet fraudulent reassembling of a skull to link humans and apes,  known as the “Piltdown Man.” 

“Dawson’s Piltdown Man, teeth assembled from Donovan orangutan, why would he do such a thing, of course, what a stupid question.” 

She then tells the story of what sounds like a childhood sleepover:

 “…outside our little tent, your dog must have caught something, I followed you both, and let out screams…here comes your dad annoyed…”

These lyrics define Quinlan’s conversational, yet poetic stream of consciousness-style, that seem to dictate her melodies.

While the use of harp, mandolin, acoustic guitars, and pianos lends itself to a folk record, Quinlan transforms this sound with her use of synth instruments, and grooving rhythms. Combined with cliché (in a good way) musical lines such as the descending keyboard line in “Your Reply,” the record sounds  theatrical at points. 

The intro of “Detroit Lake,” is staggered and off balance at first, bleeding into a menacing swell of strings which creates soap opera-esque tension, finally releasing with beautiful harp plucking and piano chords; The storm has passed. Lyrically, Quinlan summons imagery of nature, similar to “Piltdown Man.” 

“I cannot hear you laughing up the mountainside, unobserved my voice grew increasingly gruesome in the quiet.”

“Miles from all that’s between us at stake, algae blooms up in Detroit Lake,”

Again, continuing with her conversational style, “…are pigeons cannibalistic,” it almost sounds like the narrator of the song is reminiscing about their past with someone, and random quips  come up in that conversation, as they often do between friends.

The album’s final track is the perfect ending song: A reworked version of Built To Spill’s “Carry The Zero,” that blends in so effortlessly with the rest of the album. The synths and drums are syncopated, screeches of fuzzy guitar mixed with un-amped electric guitar strings blend together into an amalgamation of  natural and unnatural sounds. The songs final lyrics lamented are of defeat. “…I guess I pushed too hard, Now we can’t even touch it, afraid it’ll fall apart.” 

While the songwriting seems signature for Quinlan, the way in which she is delivering it is entirely different. It can fit in really well with Hop Along’s discography and yet it easily stands on its own. It walks the line between the two projects in a way many fans will be happy about. Quinlan is a powerhouse of original sound and lyricism that continues to engage her audience on a deeply personal level.

      Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Ryan Bartlett | @ryanbartlett12

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