The New Jersey band Pinegrove - their name an allusion to the environmental center at the college one of the members attended - has been bubbling just under the radar for quite some time now. Primary songwriters Evan Stephens Hall and Zach Levine began playing music together at a young age while living in the NYC suburbs of Montclair, and, after a number of start-up bands throughout middle and high school, eventually found the perfect lineup to form Pinegrove and begin recording and releasing a string of DIY albums and EPs. In 2015 they signed to Run for Cover Records and released their wistful, narrative label debut, “Cardinal.”
The band defines their sound right off the bat; Hall’s vocals saunter almost carelessly overtop twangy, laid-back guitar chords, basking lazily in the welcoming comfort of Americana-drenched indie rock. Musically, Pinegrove incorporates elements of folk and rootsy alternative, albeit with the faint undercurrent sliver of what is, apologetically, pop-punk. Lyrically is where Pinegrove shines the most, each song careening by on a sailboat of fond sentiment and warm familiarity, not unlike the way a friend you haven’t seen in ages might recount the stories about the time you were in school together, or the first crushes you ever had. Hall’s rambling anecdotes fabricate en endearing history of intricate friendships - some steadfast, others fragile - that are as real and as deep as those around us as the social spheres of our own reality.
Despite the album’s docile nature, it does strike a poignant chord of defining the thin line between golden nostalgia and homesick regret. The recurring theme is, once again, friendship: the album opens with a track titled “Old Friends,” and ends with “New Friends,” as if accepting the struggles of growing up and going the separate ways of those from which you were once inseperable. These songs are about the day-to-day emotions, the passing thoughts, and the circle of faces that make up specific memories that define a certain point in a your teenage life. “Cardinal” is an album spattered in all the complex and colorful - yet fading - shades of autumn; for a brief listen, Pinegrove allows us a longing gaze into days gone by, all while leaves tumble down on a breeze as if to stamp a tangible marker of time in the air, air with it’s first hints of growing colder.
“Cardinal” is available for purchase on the band’s website, iTunes, or bandcamp. Pinegrove will be playing at the Southgate House Revival (Sanctuary) in Newport, KY on July 17 with support from touring acts Adjy and Vagabon.