“We should try again to talk,” Frances Quinlan writes. It not just a lyric—it’s a suggestion, a warning, a plea, a wish. This request is woven throughout Likewise, her forthcoming solo album, amidst dramatically shifting motifs. Some are jubilant, some are dreamy and abstract, and a few are sinister, but within each dark void that Quinlan explores, there is a light peering back at her.
Frances Quinlan has built an identity for herself over the past decade as the lead songwriter and front-woman of the Philadelphia-based band Hop Along, and her distinct voice is among the most recognizable and inimitable in music. While the band began as Quinlan's solo project (originally titled Hop Along, Queen Ansleis), Likewise (out January 31st on Saddle Creek) is Quinlan's debut under her own name. To make the record, she enlisted the virtuosic skills of her bandmate Joe Reinhart, and together they produced the album at his studio, The Headroom, recording in stints over the course of a year.
With a renewed openness to explore different sounds, Quinlan supplements her typical guitar-based instrumentation with synthesizers, digital beats, harps, strings, and a wide variety of keyboards. The shifting and exploratory nature of these musical arrangements allow her lyrics and vocals—which have always been at the forefront of her music—to reach emotional depths like never before. Her vocal tones beckon a kaleidoscopic range of emotions across all nine songs on the album, from soft and ruminative to enraged and commanding; from conveying powerful messages to highlighting small, yet poignant, moments.
Quinlan is a voyaging songwriter. Throughout Likewise, she confronts what confounds her in the hopes that she will come out on the other side with a better sense of what it is to be human. She presents listeners with a complicated, albeit spirited vision of what it could mean to truly engage with another person, to give a small piece of oneself over to someone else without expectation. Although such is likely to be a lifelong effort, these songs prove evident that light can still permeate from unsettling depths.