Hop Along’s new single manages a lot in just under four minutes. When the song begins, Frances Quinlan seems to be coming from a place of firm resolve, a hard-won acceptance of things from her past. It twists and turns through moments of what sounds like joy, but quickly gives way to keener sounds of longing and regret. It recalls memories both sweet and acrid (“we were covered in each other’s snot/in my childhood bed”), at once acknowledging that the past may not have been as pretty as it seems, but letting it form the song’s core anyway. The track as a whole sounds as if Quinlan is trying to say, “I don’t think about those things anymore,” but being unable to keep them from pushing to the surface anyway. This push-pull results in one of the band’s strongest efforts. No matter how many times you replay “How Simple” (and I’ve replayed it a lot in this past week), you’ll find something new every time.
Since the song’s debut last week, many have called it the band’s poppiest release. It’s true, there are moments of that, most notably in its sing-along chorus: “don’t worry / we’ll both find out / but not together,” but to me, it sounds more complicated, conscious and clever than just that. This laissez-faire adage—complete with hand-clapping—is where the story should end, where everyone outside of the situation would tell you to let go, but the hesitant tremble in Quinlan’s voice as she admits, “how simple my heart can be/frightens me,” lets us know that she’s not quite ready to let go just yet.