Hop Along Queen Ansleis, Smiling Folk Queen

Frances Quinlan, AKA Hop Along Queen Ansleis, is refreshingly original. Her voice has a wide octave range that rises and falls with complete abandon. She never holds back. She tells stories, fills songs with many words and images, and delivers them at machine gun pace. Within a second, her voice can suddenly fall to a whisper or a hum, only to rise again with unprecedented veracity. Usually, singers with that range work slowly and build to a crescendo, never surprising the listener. To me, that is just sappy and easy. 

In her full-length Freshman Year, she utilizes many instruments to create a sound that is distinctively her own. She incorporates a variety of bells, whistles, shakers, small cymbals, toys, and kazoos. The guitar is strummed and beat, hands are clapping, and the banjo, organ, and keyboards are added into the mix. While all of these instruments work their magic in a folk-like recipe, various voice tracks come in to create a feast. On a first listen, the tracks are so joyous and uplifting that her exceptional writing can be overlooked. She doesn’t rhyme or create verses, choruses, or bridges. The writing is atypical, with childlike references like the hot air balloon, the rusty trampoline, swollen boats, and a sea of concrete. These references pertain to family, friends, roommates, and childhood memories. She writes childlike dream sequences from an adult perspective and with scripted and running personal conversations. In the track “The Cactus,” she sings, “I wish somebody’d up and save me, save me, save me,” which builds, and the listener wishes to be saved. My favorite line in the song “For Sebastian From A Friend,” which she delivers with conviction, “Your guidance counselor was wrong, Hop Along sing your song. “ Advice people get along the way is usually misinformed or clueless. And writing like this, “I ain't no artist, I oughta be the dirt along the ocean floor /so when it drains I'll float to shore / now scathingly I'll throw the paint along my..."

The essence of what you hear on this CD, she can accomplish live without all the instrumentation. In January of this year, I saw her at Matchless in Brooklyn. There was a nice showing of her fan base, but the rest of the crowded bar didn't know her. The fans were up close and embracing Frances. She started the set using her guitar as percussion, and after she sang the first note, everyone moved forward. The bar was silent. People stood on barstools to get a better look. As the set continued, the audience clapped, stomped, and sang along appropriately. It is a joy watching her look up to recall every word and nuance, smiling from ear to ear, and singing to the rafters!!

Freshman year was Hop Along's first effort, which is remarkable. She is currently working on another full-length. Can't wait!!!

Freshman Year LP


Anonymous said...

i love this!
frances is such a great songwriter/singer as well as an amazing person. everything that's been said in this review i agree with 100%. i havent met a single person who hasnt loved her album upon first listen yet!. much love!

Dakota Floyd said...

Nice review! She's soooo good. I'm hoping she'll stop in my town next tour...We talked about it briefly.

Sadly, I've never seen her live. :(

kate wadkins said...

listening to and seeing hop along live has made me excited about music again!