It’s not very nice for me to write about a band that people have barely heard of, that is just now releasing their first album with a proper record label, by talking about how lonely their sound is. I’m sure that the Montclair, NJ natives that make up Pinegrove would love to have many more fans and be making much more money, and to my ears, they surely deserve to.
But the best thing about Cardinal, Pinegrove’s short-but-sweet 8-song album, is the feeling that you might be listening to it alone, because the emotion it delivers is hand-wrapped in your own special package. The lyrics are conversational, direct in their words if not always their intentions. Singer Evan Stephen Hall has a nice voice, but he
never seems completely sure if he’s singing, letting an ache trespass into the musicality, along with a slight drawl that seems somewhat at odds with the band’s New Jersey roots.
The band’s sound feels that way as well, with a slight twang that betrays a deep American-ness, without being placed in any specific part of the country. There’s an almost country-ish sound in their music, differentiating their indie-rock with a little wistfulness. Though the band is relentlessly electric in their instrumentation, letting guitars crunch and drums smack while the bass thuds along, the structure of the songs can make them seem so very sparse, almost acoustic.
On no song is this feeling of sparseness used to better effect than on the second track, “Cadmium,” starting out with just a few weak ringing notes on the guitar and Hall’s voice, letting that ache do the work for a whole band, before coming together as the band that complements the sound of that wistful voice. Restraint is used to the best effect in the instrumentation—even when the sound becomes full enough to fill a room by the chorus, it never feels anything less than intimate, and no sound feels extraneous.
Pinegrove are starting to have a moment, moving out of Montclair to tour the country, and getting applause from critics with much more impressive resumes than mine. I imagine that people will soon start having heard of them. It makes you wonder at the power of intimacy, whether the band that sounds so great for their loneliness and their individuality can keep it up when playing to the largest of rooms.
It’s this feeling of restraint that makes any such worry absurd. Their music is beautiful in its solitude no matter how many instruments are playing. Pinegrove is able to be direct and close, imminent and personal, no matter how big their audience may become. Rather than sounding like a band you have to seek out, they sound like a band that’s singing specifically to you.
Release Date: February 12, 2016
Run Time: ~30 minutes
1. Old Friends
3. Then Again
7. Size Of The Moon
8. New Friends
Written by Jon Hecht