Album Review: Pinegrove – Cardinal

By Carly Preston, Contributor

[Run For Cover; 2016]

Rating: 4/5

Key Tracks: “Old Friends,” “Then Again,” “Waveform”

Pinegrove’s sound has always been sort of undistinguishable to all ears.  Their shows could please punks, indie fans, and country twangers alike. The best description one could possibly make is to imagine Ryan Adams and Vampire Weekend having a post-rock lovechild. Needless to say, many people have been anticipating an official debut from the much-hyped act–and those people now have one in Cardinal.

Despite the genre bending, Pinegrove’s live shows always bring energy, dancing, and even the occasional tear. Cardinal perfectly represents this. Lead singer Evan Stephens Hall’s raspy vocals twang and hum knowing exactly how to pry at the listener’s heart strings. All this is cleverly worked over catchy guitar riffs and Pinegrove’s signature sound.

“Old Friends” opens the record and immediately sets the tone.  The guitars are catchy and the lyrics are an outpour of a hometown boy figuring out friendship. From there on, Stephens Hall takes you on a journey capturing how friendships are just as important as relationships. This is a refreshing topic in indie considering it is common to hear men just throwing up lovesick griping. However, despite the overall appeal of this song the drumming felt as though it needed to fully take off, and never did. The anticipation builds, making one crave a harder percussive note towards the end.

The album then shines through songs like “Then Again,” a punkier upbeat track, and “Waveform,” Cardinal’s more ballad-like song. “Waveform” in particular features chilling, beautiful lyrics that juxtapose nicely with its ever changing pace. These tracks show the diversity and strength at which Pinegrove can play.

Cardinal also features two tracks off the band’s 2015 compilation album Everything So Far: “Size of the Moon” and “New Friends.” These songs, while recognizable, are rerecorded and changed drastically. They feature updated lyrics and a newly fine-tuned sound–a sound that is not utilized to its fullest potential on the new recording of “Size of the Moon.”  This track lacks the quivers, twang, and vocal character that helped to keep its Everything So Far version raw and agonizingly pleasing. However, this more lush and confident performance works perfectly on “New Friends.” Stephens Hall belts out the ending track as if to thank everyone listening for abetting in their new success.  The lyrics finish the main concept–friendship–in a painfully relatable way. Truthfully, Cardinal could not have ended on a higher note.

Overall, Cardinal is a well-recorded and well-executed album that showcases the reasons for Pinegrove’s recent success. This LP is best served on days where one just wants to lay alone, or even dance around with friends. It suits all moods and all people. It takes you on an emotional roller coaster, but in the most spirited way. Cardinal is where indie needs to go to and, thankfully, where it seems to be going.

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