Review: Pinegrove – ‘Cardinal’

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Pinegrove are a band that I didn’t know existed up until a few months ago. And honestly, this album shocked the hell out of me. It’s one that will be talked about all year and easily end up as a favorite on many “end of the year” lists. The band would fall under the alt-country genre even though this feels like a rock album. It’s laid back vibe and the inclusion of some twang here and there contributes to that alt-country tag. But, let’s not dwell on the genre and get this out of the way: this is a damn good album.

I’m sitting here, listening to the record again, just to make sure I haven’t gone crazy and I still enjoy it just as much as the first time I listened to it. I do. The opening of “Old Friends” is one I’m not sure I can get tired of. The band has had rotating members the last few years, but Evan Stephens Hall and Zack Levine have been the constants with their songwriting and drumming, respectively. Evan gets out a lot of emotions in these lyrics and you can see the progression from Cardinal beginning with “Old Friends” and coming to a close with “New Friends.” It’s like getting to feel for an entire chapter of someone’s life in just 8 songs. Personally, I would have loved a longer album, but I think any additional tracks may not have had the same effect.

It’s gut-wrenching how relatable songs can be and that’s no different on this album. I’m sure we can all relate to the transition from old friends to new ones. This album offers everything in between. “Aphasia” is a stand out track. It deals with just being relieved to have even said anything at all to the point where it doesn’t matter what it was. This seems a bit ironic considering how great the songwriting is. Then again, it’s probably easier to write something down and say it generally than it is to say something directly. Some of the most powerful lyrics can be found in “New Friends” with the trio of lines “I resolve to make new friends // I like my old ones but I fucked up so I’ll start again // What’s the worst that could happen?” hooking you and sinking you in one swift motion. Needless to say, I’ll be listening to this album still at the end of the year. So instead of spending more time reading this, I encourage you to go check it out.