4/3/17 – Pinegrove “Cardinal” (2016)

Pinegrove are a New Jersey Indie Rock band, but really their sound blends Indie with Emo, Country, and Rock. Such a combination shouldn’t be possible but Pinegrove pulls it off like it’s as natural as anything. This was my introduction to the band and I nearly passed on it on my first listen. I’m not usually a fan of the style of singing used here by Evan Stephens Hall, so it was enough for me to pause and do something else. Thankfully I came back and gave it another shot, and I was completely blown away. Nearly every song starts out like that – I’m caught off guard and out of my comfort zone, but by the end of it I want to replay it instantly, as if I’ve never a heard a song like it before. I fell completely in love with this album, and so it’s been on repeat for me for the past 5 months.

Cardinal’s lyrics mainly deal with relationships – both romantic and friendly, and Old Friends starts the album brilliantly with that in mind. I wrestle with which song is my favorite but this one usually wins. It’s got such a powerful emotional punch (especially with the vocal delivery of “as if I needed a reminder” and vivid lyrics like:
walkin outside labyrinthian over
cracks along under the trees
i know this town grounded in a compass
cardinal landing in the dogwood
i keep goin over it over & over
my steps iterate my shame
how come every outcome’s such a comedown

I could really just post the whole lyrics for Old Friends, and a number of other songs on this album, I feel it’s just impeccable writing. It’s quite unusual for me, I’m not normally drawn to the lyrics as much as the instrumentation and sound, so this is a rarity for me. That’s not to say the instrumentation is lacking, far from it – the band is absolutely fantastic and they harmonize with the vocals very well.

Then Again picks up the pace with an anxious and excited groove that builds to fantastic guitar riff after the chorus. It’s so energetic that I can’t help but move to the song. Aphasia brings the tempo down to the slow melancholy that dominates the album, and brings it’s own gut punch with the line “one day i won’t define myself by the one i’m thinkin of”. Cardinal is generally quite calm but the band often explodes out of nowhere on songs like Visiting, it really makes listening to the album continually exciting.

Size of the Moon is finishing blow of emotional impact, detailing a one way conversation of someone trying to resurrect a dying/dead relationship. If you’ve had a talk like this then you can already fill in the blanks of the other person. Like Old Friends, the entire lyrics are just perfect. New Friends is a somewhat optimistic closer, and bookends the album with the starting track Old Friends. There’s a resolve to make new friends, move on with old hangups, but there’s also the acknowledgement of how hard this really is. Is moving on even that possible? The narrator sounds like he’s trying to convince himself it’s not.

Check out this album now, and give it a full listen.