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Worth a Thousand Words: Skylight by Pinegrove

Worth a Thousand Words: Skylight by Pinegrove

Skylight  by Pinegrove (Image retrieved from https://pinegrove.bandcamp.com/)

Skylight by Pinegrove (Image retrieved from https://pinegrove.bandcamp.com/)

Skylight by Pinegrove:
Skylight Fights Back the “Darkness.”
Released: September 28, 2018
Label: Self-released via Bandcamp

“Speak softly and carry a big stick:” President Theodore Roosevelt is always closely associated with this proverb. When he used the phrase, he was talking about the stance the United States should take with foreign diplomacy.[1] I feel as though this particular quote accurately describes Pinegrove, with their brand of folk-influenced, quiet but intense indie rock. Skylight, the sophomore album from the Montclair, New Jersey 5-piece, examines some aspects of contemporary life in an intensely heartfelt way.

If you’re unfamiliar with Pinegrove’s work, I’d compare them to bands like Bear’s Den for their folk-rock aspect, and Modern Baseball for their indie rock side; the band finds a happy medium in between the two genres. While somewhat stripped down in terms of musical arrangement, Skylight feels well thought out and relatable on every song. Just stop and think about what a skylight is. It’s a window, easy enough. But people always look up to the sky when contemplating things, searching for an answer, or just daydreaming. In a way, a skylight is a portal to another place and time, and this record acts in much the same way.

This album touches on a lot of adult topics viewed through youthful eyes. Take for example “Rings,” the opening track:

“I draw a line in my life. Singing this is the new way I behave now, and actually live by the shape of that sound...”[2]

Now to me, it’s hard to not interpret that as Evan talking about the transition between adult life A.K.A the “real world,” and the life that adolescents live.

Just as a blanket statement, this album reminds me of the small town that I grew up in: mostly rural, but lightly touched by outside, modern influences. The way that Pinegrove fuses the twangy-ness of folk with the hard-hitting energy of garage-made indie rock makes for a solid album all around; It encapsulates the thoughts of a young man caught in the middle of a whirlwind. Whether that be social anxiety, as show in “Thanksgiving:”

“Warm night before thanksgiving, what do I have to be nervous for? ‘Cause who am I really beholden to?”[3]

Or maybe it’s a pit of self-doubt, like “Darkness” describes:

“Suddenly I find I've got darkness on my mind. It's a question mark that keeps me looking, and it's never satisfied, and it's never what I thought. Saying I'm happy when I'm not. No, I got darkness on my mind...”[4]

Whatever the case may be, Evan Stephens Hall paints a portrait that’s easily recognizable and relatable. Skylight feels like something that would be expected from a band with a lot more experience under their belt; Pinegrove only has one previous studio album, and another album that compiles all their independently released work prior to their signing with the label Run for Cover. But despite their youthfulness, Evan and his band have penned an album that feels grown up in its subject matter and delivery. The band opted for a self-release for this album, with proceeds from Skylight sales via Bandcamp being donated to Musicares, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Voting Rights Project.[5]

Pinegrove has shown that they can do a lot with just a little, a theme that folk seems to follow. With easily related, honest lyrics, Skylight transports us to a different place and time, one where time has slowed, and things have settled down. I feel like this was a perfect album for fall and I wish that I would’ve caught it sooner. I also wish that I, and other young adults for that matter, could’ve had this album sooner. When you listen to its lyrics, its telling us a lot of different things: It’s okay to be alone, to feel sad, angry, or anything else that you can imagine; it’s alright to feel things and they’re all valid. That’s as good a message as any that I can think of. With the formula that the band has going right now, I have no doubt that they will continue to find success and blow up on a larger scale; with what they’ve displayed here, I think that’s “Easy Enough.”

The Final Cut:
Favorite Track: “Portal”
Ratings: (Based on a scale from 1 to 10, 0 – Hated It, 1 – Extremely Disliked, 2 – Greatly Disliked, 3 – Moderately Disliked, 4 – Slightly Disliked, 5 – Neutral, 6 – Slightly Enjoyed, 7 – Moderately Enjoyed, 8 – Greatly Enjoyed, 9 – Extremely Enjoyed, 10 – Loved It)

Length: 7, This piece is considered a full album, but it comes in at only 31 minutes in total. Personally, I could’ve done with a few more songs on the album, but I’m being nitpicky there.

Mixing: 10, Skylight combines indie rock with folk, and as such the mixing on this album favors each respective element favorably: You can clearly hear the twangy guitar parts as well as the more mellow piano melodies clearly, with an emphasis on the vocals and of course the trademark kick drum beat.

Lyrical Composition: 10, Like I mentioned in my review, this album feels well thought out in its writing. Evan Stephens Hall has penned a record that discusses everyday topics that we can all relate to and does so honestly and without judgement.

Organizational Flow: 9, This album flows very gently from song to song, with slow climbs in tempo here and there. Every song feels like it belongs on this album, and everything comes together to form a piece that wants us to slow down a bit ourselves.

Overall “Sound”: 8, I’m recently new to Pinegrove, but I’ve greatly enjoyed them in the short time I have known about them. Personally, I’m a fan of more upbeat, high intensity music (re: generic rock), but Skylight, with its quiet intensity and earnestness, is an album that I can easily listen to at any point in time.

Total Rating: 8.8/10

[1] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Big Stick policy. 2018. Website. 20 December 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/event/Big-Stick-policy>.

[2] Hall, Evan Stephens. Rings Lyrics. 28 September 2018. Website. 19 December 2018.

[3] Hall, Evan Stephens. Thanksgiving Lyrics. 28 September 2018. Website. 19 December 2018. <https://genius.com/Pinegrove-thanksgiving-lyrics>.

[4] Hall, Evan Stephens. Darkness Lyrics. 28 September 2018. Website. 19 December 2018. <https://genius.com/Pinegrove-darkness-lyrics>.

[5] Pinegrove. Skylight by Pinegrove. 28 September 2018. Website. 19 December 2018. <https://pinegrove.bandcamp.com/>.

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