Audio Mixers: Nick Levine; Zack Levine; Evan Stephens Hall; Sam Skinner .
Recording information: The Owlery.
Cardinal, the label debut by Montclair, New Jersey's Pinegrove, is an album redolent with long-nurtured disappointment and world-weariness that somehow manages to rise up and succeed in spite of itself. The band has been around since 2010, consistently releasing various D.I.Y. efforts that were eventually collated into a hefty collection appropriately titled Everything So Far. Sure, there are countless acts offering ragged, warm rock for eternally gray days, but from the start, bandleader and songwriter Evan Stephens Hall has captained the project with his own unique outlook, giving them a solid sense of distinction. An earthy Americana patina colors Pinegrove's brand of indie rock that at times resembles shambling heartland rock with occasional shades of emo catharsis spiking out of the mix now and again. At first blush, the roomy guitar chugs and affable melody of album-opener "Old Friends" might feel a little unremarkable, but as Hall's banner of wounded introspection unfurls, you realize he's hitting all the right spots. That easygoing, scuffed-up feeling extends to the rockers as well the twangy standout "Then Again" and the more pensive, yet no less potent "Visiting." Hall's tenor drawl suits this type of music well without coming off as overly affected, blending easily into the dreamy harmonies on "Waveform" and rattling the roof on album-closer -- and thematic bookend -- "New Friends." Throughout Cardinal's eight tracks, banjos and pedal steel weave unobtrusively, feeling more like duct-taped gear from the rehearsal space than anything overtly country, and that's a big part of Pinegrove's charm. What they lack in showiness or branding, they make up for in honesty and slightly battered spirit. ~ Timothy Monger
Spin - "Hall has a preternatural knack for piecing together wry observations and punctuating them with big, bare, gut-punch observations."
Pitchfork (Website) - "[T]his music sounds like it was made by young people, artists who created a dialogue with their fans by speaking to their specific concerns in an effusive, colorful language that mirrored their own."