Pinegrove – ‘Cardinal’

By Glen Bushell

These days, finding honesty in music can be few and far between. Its easy for bands to dress up their music with metaphor, layers of sound, and the right look, masking the fact that they are making something purely for the sake of it. Thankfully, that’s not something you can say about Pinegrove. They have been the talk of the town since they joined the ever growing – and ever impressive – Run For Cover roster, and the build up to ‘Cardinal’ has been an exciting one.

After one listen through the eight tracks on the album, its clear that it has been worth the wait, and that there is certainly no masquerading going on here. No crystal clear production, no lyrical embellishment, and zero style over substance. ‘Cardinal’ reads like a diary of bedroom written honesty, and conjures visions of friends sitting around, making music as a document to growing up.

The raw lyrical narrative explores a longing for answers to several of the universes answerable questions on relationships, loneliness, death, and just about every hurdle we cross through life. Whether it is the opener ‘Old Friends’, the sullen ‘Waveform’, or the coming of age tale told through ‘Size Of The Moon’, the album remains both relatable and engaging throughout. You find yourself recalling your own experiences of desperation while listening to ‘Cardinal’, almost as if primary Pinegrove songwriter Evan Stephens Hall is reading from your diary back to you. He has a no-frills way with words, similar to Rivers Cuomo, and delivers them in the story telling tradition of Bruce Springsteen.

Musically, the stripped back nature of ‘Cardinal’ is what makes it even more endearing. It is a very natural, charming blend of lo-fi and indie, flecked with elements of country rock. Simple, yet effective chord progressions lie underneath Hall’s sometimes imperfect vocal, and are intertwined with wistful slide guitar lines. At their most upbeat, the warm harmonies of ‘Then Again’ meet power-pop hooks, and complement the Americana-tinged ‘Visiting’ perfectly. At only eight tracks long, it almost feels like ‘Cardinal’ isn’t long enough. When you reach the glorious hooks of ‘New Friends’, it leaves you wanting more.

Pinegrove’s story actually started about six years prior to ‘Cardinal’, and it finally feels like Evan Stephens Hall has finally made the album he has been searching for inside. It may well be the album that you have been searching for inside. It is unassuming, while maintaining plenty of character. Brutally honest without any clichés, ‘Cardinal’ wont just be the soundtrack to your year, it will be the soundtrack to your life.


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