Album Review: Pinegrove – 11:11

Pinegrove – 11:11

Indie Rock | Americana | Midwest Emo

85%


When your focus is on an ever moving conveyor belt of new releases, it can be hard to find the opportunity to explore albums and artists who have slipped past your radar. No time to look back when you’re so busy looking forward. This can sometimes take the shine off discovering a band for the first time, by making diving into their back catalogue feel like a daunting prospect. Such was the case when I stumbled across Pinegrove for the first time last year, though thankfully discovering them through their live album Amperland, NY acted as a kind of introduction to their greatest hits.

However, even with that well timed starter kit ahead of the band’s 5th studio album, I wasn’t originally planning to cover their new record. As a general rule I try to steer clear of established bands that I’m unfamiliar with (especially ones with a cult following the way Pinegrove seems to have) as I don’t feel sufficiently equipped to comment. The context of how a band’s sound has changed over the years, and how a particular album compares to past releases, can carry a lot of weight, so I tend not to review records where I only have half the picture. 

But sometimes rules are made to be broken, and I was so taken by 11:11 on first listen that wider context fell by the wayside. There’s so much on offer here, and I’ve enjoyed having the time really take it all in thanks to its early release in the year while 2022’s stream of new music is still just a trickle. Opening track ‘Habitat’, the album’s longest offering at nearly seven minutes, acts as the perfect introduction. It exhibits almost the full range of the record’s musical palette in a piece that flows with distinct movements; from the emo tinged light and shade in the first half, shifting to a blissful pastoral atmosphere awash with gorgeous melodies. It also offers our first taste of socially conscious lyricism taking stock of the current state of the US, with poetic musings like “The depressing question of our time, Of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” and “‘Never Forget’ The T-shirt says, with no mask on”.

The record only goes from strength to strength from there. Upbeat rocker ‘Alaska’ is simply calling out to take pride of place on my next playlist, whose infectious driving beat reminds me a little of Arcade Fire’s ‘Ready To Start’. The tranquil waltz of ‘Orange’ serves as a great counterpoint to the song’s environmentalist message (“They’re trying to ignore it, We always knew they’d try, Today the sky is orangе, And you and I know why”), while ‘Flora’ feels suitably lush as the band take a hard left turn into Americana. The album’s most captivating melodies and expansive hazy arrangements are all waiting to be discovered on ‘Swimming’, while the emphatic chorus of ‘Let’ can somehow make guilt and disappointment sound triumphant. 

Besides the odd line feeling a little on the nose (“When Corona hit, I was already feeling pretty out of it” on ‘Respirate’), 11:11 is a record that never really puts a foot wrong. The pacing, the production, the arrangements, the deeper messages; they tick all the right boxes and all work to supplement each other. Its themes of having to walk into a post Covid world, under the shadow of looming climate disaster, while keeping up a ‘business as usual’ façade, makes the album feel deeply of-the-moment. It speaks of feeling unsteady and uncertain while musically it has a sense of being very grounded and comforting. You find it venting vehement frustration and fluttering disordered thoughts through a medium that’s calm, fluid and beautiful. 11:11 is the first truly great album of 2022, and I’m immensely glad I got the chance to afford it the time and attention it deserves.