by Sarah Ross
I first heard of Frances Quinlan in her own right on my way to work. On a particularly uninteresting late October morning, I put on NPR’s All Songs Considered and listened to the day’s New Mix episode. Quinlan’s first single, ‘Rare Thing’ and its declaration that “I know there is love that doesn’t have to do with taking something from somebody” stopped me in my tracks. Between that and her own artwork featured in the video for ‘Now That I’m Back’, I’ve had her on repeat ever since, waiting for the full album.
‘Likewise’ is by no means Quinlan’s musical debut. She is more well-known as the band leader of Hop Along, who have gained a dedicated following and recognition in no small part due to Quinlan’s deft songwriting and measured, powerful voice.
However, ‘Likewise’ is Quinlan’s solo debut. The album highlights Quinlan’s strengths as a songwriter and instrumentalist while reaching musical, lyrical and technical depths that frame Quinlan in an exciting new way and give the listener ample opportunity to connect.
Starting with found audio and childhood memories, weaving its way through recollections of relationships and experiences gone awry, Quinlan brings a self-awareness to her music that is neither stifled by brooding nor exaggeration.
At the same time, the music is creative, full of fantastical imagery and sound. It’s thrillingly divergent. On ‘Went to LA’ she makes swift movements from talking about a cannibal to shrill, harp-esque notes to a shakingly raw cry. The tidal changes are necessary for a song and album that claim “out of self-resignation did I begin with tenderness.” Quinlan’s new odyssey, characterized by bursts of distorted guitar accompanied by poppy synth, intimate piano chords and soaring violin, give ‘Likeness’ its element of culmination.
Quinlan’s solo album brings to life the nuances of innermost thoughts and memories in such a rich form that “moments so small like this” and abstract imagery thrive and flourish together in a world all of Quinlan’s making.