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 and 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 veracity that is unprecedented. Usually singers with that range typically 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 the 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 memories of family, friends, roommates, and childhood. 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 and stomped and sang along appropriately. It is such a joy watching her looking 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 I think is remarkable. She is currently working on another full length. Can't wait!!!
Freshman Year LP