Pinegrove are looking to start anew, and it is not hard to see why. To say the band’s proceedings have been cautious of late would be an understatement. The past two years have seen Pinegrove going into hiatus following serious allegations of sexual coercion, before returning conscientiously with 2018’s self-released ‘Skylight’. The new year ushers in the Montclair indie folk outfit looking to the future, joining a new label in Rough Trade and swiftly following up with ‘Marigold’. If ‘Skylight’ was Pinegrove clearing the air, ‘Marigold’ is them breathing it in.
‘Marigold’, Pinegrove’s fourth studio album, is a slight departure from the desolate, acutely despondent music that built their fanbase. Be it the ‘new year, new me’ outlook or the intense self-evaluation of recent years, but ‘Marigold’ is Pinegrove in rare optimistic form. The music is bright and lyrics glow with awareness and growth. The intention is clear from the radiant album opener. ‘Old Friends’ and ‘Rings’ started their two most recent efforts on a fairly dark note; the former contains lyrics about dead friends and “solipsistic moods”, the latter a heavy introduction about trust and concerns in relationships.
In comparison, ‘Dotted Line’ is a reflection of a new Pinegrove; a band with hope and positivity in sight. It is an instant energiser, a mood-boosting, uplifting number with enough life in it to cheer up the cynic in us. Hall confesses in the unwinding chorus: “I don’t know how, but I’m thinking it’ll all work out.” This admission is, at its very least, a step forward; a sign to keep going. It is a healthy mindset to start the album, and year off, with.
This refreshing outlook continues through the course of ‘Marigold’’s brief run-time. ‘Alcove’ is a blissful alt-rock cut. It is one of the most straight-forward songs on the album, with a folk melody that blossoms into a spacious soundscape. Spindling guitars simmer in the background until they liven up towards the climax. ‘Spiral’ is a compact and brief number; in its fifty-six seconds, Evan Stephans Hall fits in sixty-nine words. Most of these do a superb job at forging a safe space: “Good morning, I love you, You’re singing, I see you.” Hall repeats “Good morning” three times towards the song’s conclusion, as if to hammer in that this is a new day not just for the band, but for you.
That is not to say the Pinegrove of old is completely deceased. ‘Moment’ finds the group in familiar territory – it is more urgent, more paranoid. Hall transforms a contradicting lyric like, “I’m scared to know, but I need to know”, by squeezing it, straining every last bit of anguish, internal chaos, out of it. Even with the forty-second muted outro, the song stands as one of the heaviest to date.
Across the record, Pinegrove do their utmost best to create an omnipresent warmth. On ‘No Drugs’, Hall sings of “[wanting] to feel good” without the reliance of substances atop a cutesy instrumental. It is soft and perky, if a little uncomplicated. ‘Endless’ is a slow-tempo cut that roots the record. With some sweet, subtle harmonies, it culminates with a sincerely beautiful outro.
That song follows a trademark Pinegrove moment. ‘Phase’ belongs among the most beloved tracks from their breakthrough 2016 release ‘Cardinal’. A far more direct rock song, it is dynamic and direct to the point of fragility. If you need an example of the strength of the lyrical power of the group, here is a stellar entry point. “Like you said, it’s got to get better, wear my shadow like a uniform”, concludes the first verse in which Hall stresses his resignation to feeling powerless. As the drums light up the chorus, this is one of the truest highlights on the record where Pinegrove feel like a band.
The album’s unofficial, conventional climax – ‘Neighbor’ – is an ode to life. Religious in tone and arrangement, Evan Stephens Hall uses the communal spirit to project his love for nature; each verse tells a story of an animal in pain, often at the hands of man, and how Hall wishes he could help. His relationship with the animals shares this idea that all life is connected; it is a little deft but its genuineness sells the song. With each chorus opening with, “I love my neighbor…”, it is easy to fall for this new outlook Pinegrove are spreading. It basks in life and optimism, something that could well be appreciated over the next twelve months.
As the six-minute instrumental title track concludes the album, the listener is provided the opportunity to ruminate on the album’s messages before continuing the day. It is an easy song to listen to, if completely and fairly skippable. That could rightfully be said of the album as a whole. ‘Marigold’ is perhaps the most inoffensive project Pinegrove have released to date. The pleasant tone and crisp instrumentation is lovely but a little feeble. However Pinegrove are very believable at selling this idea of a healthy new start and when it comes down to it, perhaps that is what we all need.
‘Marigold’ by Pinegrove is out now via Rough Trade