Frances Quinlan’s strength as a songwriter — both with her band, Hop Along, and on her upcoming solo LP Likewise — is in sharp fragments of scene and dialogue. Take her new song, “Your Reply,” which feels like a lightning-quick dip into someone else’s mind. “Somebody wrote ‘tender’ in the novel’s margins,” she sings in the first line, puzzling out another reader’s relationship to the text in which she’s immersed. In the next verse, she’s googling the book’s author to find out how their life ended. She knows it’s not that easy to solve some riddles, though. “Whether or not I have, or was given, a little more time/There just doesn’t seem to be much room for a reply,” she sings in the chorus, making that word-string sound much catchier than it reads. Two lines later: “To what do I cling and think is mine?/No reply.”
Where John Lennon found bitter resentment in those words, Quinlan sounds almost freed by them, the song’s acoustic strum giving way to a sunny piano break. “I think of this song as celebratory,” she explained in a statement released with the single. “If anything, the speaker is frustrated at coming so close to understanding another person completely, but perhaps only just missing the mark. But still, what a gift that is, to come close.” Whether it’s a song about a halting conversation between two people or a philosophical question for the mute heavens is almost beside the point. She gives you some of the story, and the margins are yours to scribble in.
Likewise is out January 31st on Saddle Creek.
Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.
Frances Quinlan Tour Dates
January 13th: London, Rough Trade East In-Store
January 15th: London, Five Day Forecast Festival
January 19th: Chicago, Tomorrow Never Knows Festival at Sleeping Village
January 23rd: Milwaukee, Pabst Theater (supporting Ben Gibbard)
January 30th: Brooklyn, Sultan Room
March 1st: San Francisco, Noise Pop at Swedish American Music Hall
March 3rd: Portland, Oregon, Doug Fir
March 5th: Seattle, Columbiity Theater
March 6th: Vancouver, The Rubber Boot Club
March 7th: Victoria, BC, TBA
March 11th: Big Sur, CA, Henry Miller Memorial Library
March 12th: Los Angeles, Pico Union Project
March 14th: San Diego, Casbah
March 16th-21st: Austin, SXSW