Our pick of the week's new album releases is the stunning fourth album from the New Jersey indie rock quintet
There’s possibly an alternative timeline Pinegrove, but it’s unlikely they’re as good as this Pinegrove. The New Jersey quintet, fronted by singer-songwriter-guitarist Evan Stephens Hall, had a flirtation with hype off the back of their stunning debut Cardinal in 2016, but a self-imposed exile (after complicated personal issues) burst that bubble and completely altered their trajectory. That’s where that Pinegrove ended and this one began.
As a result, the album that should have been their make-or-break follow-up came out three years after their debut, labelless and totally under the radar. Skylight should have been the album to amplify the plaudits, but there may have been a secret blessing in the band’s complete reset. It seems breaking free of the “next big thing” tag allowed Pinegrove to find their place in the world, a home built on earnest, emo-tinged Americana with big sounds and intimate themes. Their third album, 2020’s Marigold, showed just how secure and inviting that homestead could be.
The band’s fourth official album doesn’t contain any surprises. Instead, 11:11 leans into every reason that made anyone fall in love with Pinegrove in the first place. And make no mistake, this a band that fans capital-L Love. Whether it’s Stephens Hall’s deeply relatable lyrics, cramming so many words into some songs that it sounds like an uncontrollable outburst. The trademark slashing, ripping guitars that burst out of the silence like a knife through the dark on opener ‘Habitat’. The barn burners like standout single ‘Alaska’ and the almost power-pop-esque descending chords of ‘Cyclone’. The tarnished ballads like the gorgeous, waltzing ‘Orange’ and dramatic closer ‘11th Hour’. Pinegrove elicit strong emotions.
The album’s title comes from the aforementioned ‘Alaska’, which draws connections between a time on a clock, a row of trees, rungs on a ladder reaching endlessly up, furrows across a field or just people standing next to each other. Where so many songs are about finding freedom and release, ‘Alaska’ longs for connection and to be tethered to something forever. It’s so much more human and relatable than an arbitrary rock ‘n’ roll sentiment like freedom and it turns an excellent song into a great one.
Nature recurs throughout 11:11, reclaiming its territory and breaking down buildings in ‘Habitat’, dimming to reflect loss on ‘Flora’, the sky reflecting the fire burning down our world on ‘Orange’. After the two years we’ve had, with the world given its brief moment of reprieve during lockdown, it makes sense that it would dominate an album so concerned with connection and its absence.
There was a moment where it looked like Pinegrove might just disappear. Whatever they overcame to continue, an album like 11:11 makes you very glad that they found a way.
8. So What
11. 11th Hour
Listen to Pinegrove’s 11:11 on Spotify or buy it here
Pinegrove are on tour in the UK in May 2022. Get tickets from Ticketmaster here.