Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Bark Your Head Off Dog

Hop Along – How Simple (Music Video)

In just a scant few days a surprisingly long list of compelling music videos have come out, bearing the names of artists like Speedy Ortiz, Holy Now, Miya Folick, Okkervil River, Covey, Marchildon!, Cherry Glazerr, MOLLY, Johanna Warren, Alice Bag, The Duke of Norfolk, LUMP, Swampmeat Family Band, Secret Colours, and Scott Matthews. While all of those are worth a handful of watches, the clip that will be focused on in this post is the one that Hop Along‘s provided for Bark Your Head Off, Dog showstopper “How Simple”.

Derrick Belcham takes the reins for the “How Simple” clip, which is a joyous celebration of identity and an homage to classic films (notably, the golden era of the movie-musical). The video also puts guitarist/vocalist Frances Quinlan front and center, marking an intriguing first for the band. Quinlan’s boundless charisma and magnetism as a perform has long been a selling point of the band’s scintillating live show but they’ve never allowed themselves such a visual spotlight in the visual release format.

The wait pays tremendous dividends here, Quinlan’s presence coming off like a sustained flash of lightning, cleverly elevated by the clip’s single-spotlight framing. All eyes are on Quinlan as the songwriter guides us through what could be a manic breakdown, a morning routine, or an extended moment of solitude. No matter which way the clip’s narrative is spun, the truth of it manages to speak volumes, punctuated by what very well wind up being the line of the year in “don’t worry, we will both find out, just not together.”

Impromptu dance parties break out, cereal gets eaten, and different figures find ways to come into focus, but when “How Simple” begins receding, those faces are left peering in from outside, with that lone spotlight still on Quinlan. It’s a moment that’s both sobering and hopeful, coming across as a testament to a well-earned understanding of the importance of self-care. Even when everything falls apart or is splintering at the seams, there are still ways to center yourself. Sometimes all it takes is the knowledge that you’re always free to dance around and pour yourself a bowl of cereal.

Watch “How Simple” below and pick up a copy of Bark Your Head Off, Dog here.

Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog (Album Review, Stream)

A small sampling of some excellent records to find release were already given a few posts back but to not mention the records put out by Bambara, Pole Siblings, Big Buddy, Look Vibrant, Stimmerman, No Thank Youdné, and Breakfast Muff would be doing everyone a massive disservice. All of those records are worth exploring, as always, but the record that this post’s going to focus on is one that registers as a standout for a long list of reasons: Hop Along’s breathtaking Bark Your Head Off, Dog.

Hop Along, over the course of their history, have built up a fervent following that’s greeted the band’s music as if it were their own religion. Even a cursory run through their discography would help contextualize that response, as their catalog’s full of blisteringly intense and incredibly emotional pleas, statements, and revelations. The band seems to be constantly operating in a do-or-die mode, where literally everything needs to be put on the line and defended with every last ounce of vigor the members can muster.

They’ve already put out two records that many hold as sacred, in Get Disowned and Painted Shut, virtually guaranteeing any news of new material would be greeted as an event with a capital E. A cathartic live show built and shaped by years of intense touring and the band’s proven record in studio had everyone bracing for another towering record full of the life-or-death dynamics that have become the band’s established pattern.

To their credit, Hop Along took a massive artistic risk and subverted that formula to deliver the most measured and nuanced work of their career. More impressively, they found a way to retain the level of emotional catharsis that’s earned them such a devoted following. Bark Your Head Off, Dog is an incredibly ambitious record, with things like imposing orchestral arrangements scattered throughout its runtime.

From the record’s opening track, “How Simple”, it seems as if it’ll be business as usual for a while, with the band echoing the late-career work of Rilo Kiley (another band with notable ties to Saddle Creek) but it offers glances towards something a little different. Even with that lingering sense things might be about to change, the closing minutes find room for a vintage Hop Along moment with the repeated mantra of “Don’t worry, we will find out, just not together.”

It’s at that moment that the record — and the band’s slightly revamped dynamic approach — start to click into place. Across the rest of the record, they take small risks to arrive at maximum impact, keeping the listener on their proverbial toes, causing them to lean in and invest. As a tactic, it’s incredibly effective and the band uses it masterfully throughout some of the most impressive work of their career.

Bark Your Head Off, Dog is more than just one impressive arrangement after another, though, and Hop Along grants it as much — if not more — emotional heft than either of there previous two outings. There are times where the record goes beyond feeling personal and tips into feeling like it was borne out of necessity. Thankfully, for us, we can now reap the rewards of that need with what’s bound to stand the test of time and remain one of 2018’s most incredible records.

Listen to Bark Your Head Off, Dog below and pick it up from Saddle Creek.