Back in 2015, Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan told Paste love and relationships were “the one thing” she had trouble writing about. ”[Love] is the most vulnerable experience you can have,” she said. “When I do write that I want it to be right.” Four years later, she’s more than risen to the challenge: Her solo album Likewise (out Jan. 31, 2020) is all about the difficult work of embracing love, repairing relationships, and seeing ourselves and others as they truly are. Lead single “Rare Thing” explored loving without expectation, and new track “Now That I’m Back” traces Quinlan’s evolving attitudes towards affection and understanding.
“Now That I’m Back” is a strange, sprawling track that ranges from quiet and fluttery to bouncy to harsh and claustrophobic, with a rich array of instrumentation including quivering guitar, urgent shakers and springy synth. Quinlan shares impressionistic, enigmatic snippets of memory—”Raid-seasoned spaghetti,” “Voltaire’s severed head,” “balloons in a foreign park”—in her trademark razor-edged voice. At first, “Now That I’m Back” seems difficult to parse, but it ends on a note that’s something like the record’s thesis statement: “We should try again to talk.” It won’t be the last time we hear Quinlan attempt to open up a dialogue, according to a press release that explains ”[t]his request is woven throughout Likewise, her forthcoming solo album, amidst dramatically shifting motifs. Some are jubilant, some are dreamy and abstract, and a few are sinister.”
In a statement, Quinlan shared her thoughts on “Now That I’m Back”:
I find it mystifying that my idea of love has aged and changed right alongside me. I’d always thought of love as something one is given, I didn’t think much about my own capacity for love, for generosity. That’s too bad, but now I understand a little better, I hope. At this point I think love is always there, it exists in the margins, one needs only to access it (though this often requires some struggle and at times some pain).
Compromise is often required for the survival of most relationships. I was thinking about my struggles with compromise for the sake of understanding someone outside myself. It’s a long road, I think this song just portrays the start of it. Love is always around, even as great chunks of time drift from us and we inevitably find ourselves altered and wonder how we got to this place. I frighten myself with thoughts of love disappearing from my life, or of my hardening as a person. I’ve had some odd chapters over the last few years. I think this song came out of one of them.
Listen to “Now That I’m Back” below, with an animated illustration by Quinlan.