Let’s talk about Frances Quinlan’s voice first. Best to get that out of the way because it demand and requires our attention: a yearning like Janis Joplin, a bold surety like Patti Smith, a gravel like Lucinda Williams. Quinlan’s voice–both the physical instrument and the lyrical perspective–is all about American aspiration. But for my money what puts Hop Along over the top is guitarist Joe Reinhart. He (along with bassist Tyler Long and drummer Mark Quinlan) have stepped up to collaborate on songwriting duties for the new album and the results are intriguing. Painted Shut rewards close attention; it’s made for sitting down and, you know, listening to a whole album like we did back in the day. That way you’ll hear the little unexpected guitar licks and rhythm flourishes that were obviously never part of the song’s original idea. In lesser hands it would disjointed or muddy, but here it’s accomplished. “Waitress” looks uncompromisingly at the singer’s own failure; “Sister Cities” invites you in to the dangerous lives of drifters on the edge; “Texas Funeral” is simply the car song of the year. The band is going down the East Coast for a few weeks before heading off for a European tour; the album Painted Shut can be listened to on Spotify or purchased wherever fine music is sold.