Album Review: Kelly Hoppenjans – Can’t Get the Dark Out

Album Review: Kelly Hoppenjans - Can't Make The Dark Go Away

Folk-inspired sensibility with a pop-rock sound

Kelly Hoppenjans EP I can’t get out the dark reflects the sound of 90s grunge rock. With a more laid back and airy feel, Hoppenjans reflects an infectious optimism that bleeds throughout the record. Although the “darkness” the title alludes to is inherently present throughout the album, it is never overpowered by the lightness of presentation and instrumentals. Based in Nashville, Hoppenjans’ sensibilities reflect infectious classic pop instrumentals and folk-inspired choruses. In her intersection, Hoppenjans reflects a soft critique of online dating, while acknowledging her success in reuniting her current partner.

The first track “Love of My Life (From My Living Room)” has all the hallmarks of “quarantine pop”, i.e. songs featuring the particularly bizarre scenarios that have come from the quarantine inflicted by COVID -19 at the start of 2020. Within his looping, soft rock instrumentals, Hoppenjans reflects both the desire to be known and the fear of it. Despite the disavowal of online dating, there’s still an intriguing quality to it, which leads the chorus to gain intensity, as if building the album’s catalyst.

“I Knew The Way There” reflects a more grungy sound, mirroring much of the rock music that has recently become nostalgic. In this sound, there is a sense of empowerment reflected in Hoppenjans’ commitment to mission with his work. Inside the island story, the EP assures that they are not alone.

Unlike the more upbeat opening tracks, “Stain” has a slow cadence that makes the song feel like the most personal on the EP. When the bridge arrives, it seems more cathartic than the previous ones. The singer reflects a more varied lyrical performance towards the end, which seems to be underused in the rest of the album. The belt combined with the bass breakdown and screeching drums have an interesting interplay with each other that isn’t as celebrated on the rest of the record.

“Parallel Lines” is more traditional than “Stain”, but features the same attention to detail in its songwriting. With multiple references to the surreal nature of quarantine, there are some pretty thoughtful realizations. With touches of folk-rock instruments, Hoppenjans vocal range is celebrated to the hilt. The swinging guitar and harmonies reflect 70s folk more than 90s grunge, but they still fit into the narrative.

“You Got To” has a sweet feel that combines the two sounds on the record. In satisfying conclusion, the desires of the singer seem more tangible than the frustrations of the beginning. Finding hope amid the dark times of 2020, the album reflects an optimistic outlook that many artists create. If the album certainly does not reinvent the pandemic record, it is a cathartic 20 minutes. Even when all seems lost, darkness is somehow left behind. Contrary to the album’s title, Hoppenjans has found some happiness in the record, and his love shines through beautifully.


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