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Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog

I’ve liked Philadelphia indie rockers Hop Along for a while now, but I think I’ve only recently cracked the code as to what makes them special. And that’s that on first listen they seem like the most typical amalgam of what an indie rock band would be expected to sound like: the crunchy guitars, the sneaky rhythmic patterns, the token lady lead singer surrounded by bearded bandmates. But when you actually listen to them closely, there are a lot of things that make Hop Along less than typical: the odd song structures, the leftfield brazenness, and a lady lead singer whose explosive vocals are far more raw and uncompromising than pretty much any lead singer going right now.

Bark Your Head Off, Dog, the latest release from Hop Along once again sees these guys (and token singer lady) playing against conventions in ways I’m just starting to wrap my head around. Granted, the album’s been out for less than a week, but I suppose I’m just fighting the fact that albums seem to have a shorter shelf life these days, so I’m reviewing this right now. Which is by no means the best way to be digesting it, since I’m sure it’ll take many more listens to soak it all in.

That gets at another surprising thing about a band this brash and hook-y: that they’re a band whose songs take a few listens to truly grow on you. You could once again chock this up to the Hop Along’s ability to write memorable songs that fall outside the typical verse-chorus-verse format. This has led to me getting a bunch of “moments” from this album stuck in my head, rather than songs. Where I’ll be humming what I thought was the chorus of a song, but was actually an interlude 3 minutes into a song which I, unfortunately, couldn’t remember the name of. But I suppose that’s a good problem to have, as I can only hope this leads to me listening to Bark Your Head Off, Dog nearly as much as 2015’s Painted Shut (which I listened to a lot!)

Hmmm… that just made me realize I’ve reviewed the follow-ups to both my #3 albums of 2015 and 2016. Though somehow I doubt The War On Drugs is going to drop an album this week to complete the theme. Also, I realize this review was a little all over the place, but that kind of feels appropriate for the unpredictability of this album.

Favorite Tracks: “How Simple”, “Look of Love”, “Prior Things”

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