Pinegrove got their start by self-releasing music and playing house shows. Now the band, composed of core members Evan Stephens Hall and Zack Levine, has released their fifth studio album entitled 11:11. Pinegrove’s sound is often referred to as “alt-country” due to their use of the banjo and a pedal steel guitar. However, their lyrics often give them a place in the emo genre as well.
Their 11 track project tops out at 39 minutes and explores the more calm side of Pinegrove, lyrically and instrumentally. This album appears to trade out their more synth heavy era for a warmer sound. Acoustic guitars and background piano are more noticeable than ever. With roots in emo and rock, 11:11 is lyrically less aggressive as well.
We begin with track 1, “Habitat”. This song is supposed to emanate the idea of driving around upstate New York in the winter time. I didn’t really pick up on that. “Habitat” is arguably the most aggressive song on the album, but only in parts. The seven minute song has plenty of range within it and plays into the overarching natural and earthy imagery throughout the album. While addressing birds evacuating trees and benthic tides, the song leaves us with an arguably political note, “Before I die/ Never forget/ The t-shirt says/ With no mask on”. I’m sure you can see how the song reached seven minutes while spacing out lines with four to five syllables each.
The track “Alaska” did not strike me well. It honestly feels like a bunch of lyrics that don’t necessarily correlate and give off the feeling that they were thrown into the song. While I don’t enjoy the song, there were certain lines that stuck out to me and would’ve done very well if set with other cohesive lyrics. Hall describes the sky laid out before a pilot as an “opalescent open road” from which “time expanded”. The imagery is beautiful, but random. I imagine that Pinegrove was trying to remain as vague as possible about the album’s full contents.
And as every album must have one repetitive, filler song, “Iodine” sufficed! Didn’t bother me, but didn’t delight me either.
A song that I adored is called “Respirate”. Hands down the most straightforward but still sonically pleasing track so far. “I crash against the wind feeling elegant/ The trees beneath my feet”. For me, “Respirate” represents the moment we all felt the world begin to open back up, as this album was written in September of 2020. Getting back into everyday life can be overwhelming, but Pinegrove reminds us in the chorus to stay calm and simply respirate.
Another song off the album is “Swimming”. Hall and Levine hit the alt- country at full force with this song. For being from New Jersey, the southern accent was convincing. This song tells the story of what we can assume is a young Hall nearly drowning in the undertow as a child. When arriving back on the shore, he’s “sputtering into the moving trees” and the birds and clouds “going on without him”. While being near death, as we discover at the end of the song, the world still turns and life goes on as usual. Even with this notion being terribly upsetting we all still go on. It kind of seems uplifting!
The appropriately titled eleventh track, “11th Hour”, in a mere three verses hurt my feelings more than any other track. The lyrics seem to suggest intrusive thoughts of impending dooms. “Suddenly we’re sinking/ And I’m singing, and I’m old” directly turns into “Now what were we talking about now?”. He also mentions he cannot stop laughing at his own thoughts or simply laughing without reason. One more concerning than the other. Finally, there’s an “actual emergency now” and after a few more vague lines the album is done!
I think Pinegrove has more things to say and more albums in them. I think as a band, after five albums of the band discovering their niches and sound, we’ve solidified the true Pinegrove sound. With the release of this album, 11:11, I believe we can all resonate with the fact that we’re wishing for better too.
Photo Credits from: https://music.apple.com/it/album/11-11/1590173399?l=en