Pinegrove’s sixth album, “11:11”, feels both like a band finding its way again as well as fully settled into a sound for the first time.
Digressing immediately in this Pinegrove 11:11 review, I was surprised to see that this is indeed their sixth album, and I’ve been listening to them since 2016.
Obviously this is all through my filtered view of the band but for instance, their 2015 release “Everything So Far” feels more like a compilation of scattered “singles” (which I put in quotes because as much as I love “The Metronome”, for example, it’s not a single) and other previously released tracks.
Then you have the record which got so many people into Pinegrove and the record which every subsequent record will continue to be compared to, 2016’s “Cardinal”. I tend to think of this more as their first record, but at 8 songs and some of those tracks being more polished versions of songs they had already released, I almost think of this as more of an EP.
“Skylight”, arguably my favorite Pinegrove record, could be argued as being their first proper release. Then you have for my mind their weakest record in 2020’s “Marigold”, and I guess they’re counting the sort-of-live “Amperland, NY” from 2021 which saw them reworking a lot of their older tracks mostly to success.
Regardless, I digress, and at the time of this writing, 11:11 is their latest. I do go back through their discography to give some context as to how we got to this point musically with Pinegrove.
Pinegrove 11:11 Review
Thematically, 11:11 is certainly a record of its time. There are references to impending civil war, covid, isolation, and generally civilization in decline, and most of that comes up for the first time on the opening track, “Habitat”.
At nearly 7 minutes long, Habitat sets you up for exactly what you’re getting throughout 11:11.
11:11 is fittingly 11 songs made up of slower to mid tempo meandering grooves.
Kind of an alternative folk with a hint of blues born out of midwest emo vibes, all of which characterize Pinegrove now for better or worse.
I put it that way because, like I just mentioned, it’s difficult to not compare every Pinegrove release to Cardinal.
Cardinal was a record which threw a lot of different sounds at you. It was the sound of a band figuring out what they wanted to sound like and, more excitedly, what they COULD sound like.
It made me excited to hear where they were going next. They narrowed that down a bit with their followup in Skylight, but you still had the sounds of a band flexing its creative muscles.
Marigold focused almost entirely on that slower meandering midwest emo folk sound that I now associate with Pinegrove. Unfortunately the songs just didn’t stick with me.
They’ve done something similar on 11:11, but it feels like they breathed more inspired songwriting into that sound this time around.
This translates to songs I want to highlight.
Take track 3, “Iodine”. I knew from the acoustic arpeggiated intro that this was going to be a good one.
Despite running over 5 minutes, it’s a very simple and brief lyric which I interpret as striving to find inspiration whether creative or of a simply moving emotional variety in everyday life.
The lovely delivery from Pinegrove’s creative force and vocalist Evan Stephens Hall is what sells it along with the music which delicately builds at a perfect pacing beneath it throughout. The last minute or so is an instrumental coda and satisfying payment for that musical growth.
The singles released ahead of the record are also all noteworthy and account for many of the standouts.
The rocker “Alaska” is easily the most energetic track on the record. This surprising (in the context of their discography) is the closest thing Pinegrove has come to punk rock, and it’s especially refreshing amongst the predominantly quieter offerings of the record. Appropriately, this has the most listens at the time of this 11:11 review of the record, and a less restrained, more unbridled sound is clearly one which fans are eager to hear more of.
On the other end of the spectrum the slowest track on the record, “Orange”, reflects on the effects of climate change and the depressing failed attempts at taking action against them. Underneath its electric piano-led riff and a lot of building Hall delivers a great deal of emotion and energy despite the slow swaying tempo.
That’s when Pinegrove are at their best – lulling you in with what feels like a simple or one-dimensional part then flipping it upside down by effectively managing the dynamics in energy, levels, tempo, and tone both musically and in Hall’s voice.
This is how they elicit such a strong emotional response in their listeners and how they have developed such a diehard fan base.
There are moments on 11:11 which have some serious shades of 90’s alt rock on them.
One of the final singles ahead of release “Respirate” and especially penultimate track “Cyclone” feel like there could have been some Gin Blossoms spinning in the background during the writing process. It’s an interesting sound which the band wears well and fits neatly in their wheelhouse.
After what I found to be their first misstep in “Marigold”, Pinegrove have refined their sound for the better without stepping out of it too much here.
Overall 11:11 is a better collection of songs, but in the greater context of their entire (apparently) six record discography, it doesn’t have the creative strength or quite the same consistency of their earlier work.
Pinegrove – 11:11 Review Score: 3.5/5
You can listen to 11:11 or purchase it through https://pinegroveband.com/.