Pinegrove
Skylight


4.0
excellent

Review

by Haygoody USER (21 Reviews)
September 29th, 2018 | 88 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I wanna do much better

The opening lines of Skylight resemble a new mission statement for Pinegrove’s lead singer, Evan Stephens Hall: “I draw a line in my life / Singing this is the new way I behave now.” Though the record was written and recorded a year ago, these words have an eerie resonance given the controversy that has surrounded Hall and the band over the past year.

In November of 2017, Pinegrove became entangled in a confusing and multi-faceted controversy regarding allegations of “sexual coercion in the form of verbal and contextual pressure” against Evan Stephens Hall. Hall issued a statement detailing his relationship with his accuser, his remorse for his actions and the group’s collective decision to cancel Pinegrove’s upcoming tour and album release.

The vague statement generated much confusion and animus from Pinegrove’s devoted fans as they reconciled with the distressing news. But last week, the music publication Pitchfork released a long-form profile piece titled “Reckoning with Pinegrove,” which examined the causes of Pinegrove’s hiatus and how they have attempted to resolve Hall’s allegations.

The article deserves a read itself, as it covers the convoluted series of events that led up to the November statement, but its most striking lines come from Hall himself, who speaks of reassembling himself in the midst of controversy.

“The situation has demanded a full re-inventorying of myself,” he says. “I’ve tried to approach that with humility and with focus.”

It also details the reconciliation between Hall and his accuser through mediation, with a quote from Hall saying, “[She] has since approved our plan to release an album and play some shows later on this year.”

So after a year of being shelved, Skylight was finally self-released on Bandcamp, with all proceeds being split evenly between Musicares—a musician support service—, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Voting Rights Project.

The album itself is a brief collection of musical vignettes that seem to shift between bleary recollections and dilemmas of adulthood. The musical backdrop to Hall’s exuberant persona toes the line between alt-rock, folk and Americana with drifting notes weaving between sentimental lyrics. Like a serene fall afternoon spent in contemplation, the music creates a comfortable world to become lost in thought and memory within.

On songs like the opener, “Rings,” there seems to be an ever-present tension that slowly builds but never fully unravels itself. Short bursts of energy quickly give way to whispery respites, with sliding notes of lap-steel guitar creating a delightfully clouded aura hanging over each track.

Much of this musical effect has to do with the recording process of the album, which was tracked in a secluded country house the band took residency in. By taking advantage of the different echoes and reverberations in each of the house’s rooms, they crafted a record with a live-sounding ambiance filled with warm, cohesive instrumentation.

Yet despite the captivating recordings, the focus of each track rests with Hall’s poetic lyricism. On the reworked track, “Angelina,” questioned lines like "How’d you get so tangled up in my life" fill the song with a resonant passion.

It isn’t that Hall’s emotional statements are easily untangled, but they instead lend themselves to be interpreted differently by each individual listener coming from distinct backgrounds and sentiments. While lines like “I'm longing about open windows / For whatever it is I seek” off "Darkness" aren’t direct in their meaning, they leave room for subjective meaning to be discovered.

This attitude for subjective meaning can be extended to the image of Pinegrove as a whole. Before Hall’s allegations and subsequent controversies, fans of the band found themselves nurtured by their music, which can often feel like an artistic form of emotional comfort, digested differently by each.

What has happened to Pinegrove’s reputation cannot be ignored, but as they attempt to reconcile with those they’ve hurt, their delayed release of Skylight feels like an apology. By allowing each listener to consider this new batch of songs from their own subjective lens, it’s as if Hall and his bandmates are asking for us to look deeply into their emotional core ourselves.

The decision to let Pinegrove continue making music lies in us listeners. So, when Hall cries “This is the new way I behave now” at the outset of Skylight, it’s up to us to decide if we want to believe him.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Feather
September 29th 2018


4755 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Didn't realize this was finally being released!

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
September 29th 2018


2559 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Well-written piece -- no one else writing like this on the site right now, as far as I've read, so there's a lot of value in it. I wish I liked this, and I hope that it grows on me; it's disappointing considering the context of the release, but I appreciate the album for what it is, and I agree with it seeming like an apology: I hope the fans dig it, which they seem to so far.

Digging: Brennan Savage and Fish Narc - Drowning

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 29th 2018


28118 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Really good review. I listened to Cardinal before the allegations and thought it was good but not great. Still, there's something about this band's music that draws me back in. I'm going to listen to this at some point this weekend. Have a pos.

Digging: mewithoutYou - [Untitled]

Danred97
September 29th 2018


1870 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cardinal has become one of my favorite albums in recent memory. I can’t wait to dive into this. So glad these boys got things sorted out because their way too talented to not be making music.

Digging: mewithoutYou - [Untitled]

LawlessWalrus
September 29th 2018


148 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think I like this album. Rings, Darkness and Skylight are all some of the finer individual songs I’ve heard in a long time, up there with Aphasia imo.



I’m still trying to reconcile the context of what Evan was embroiled in outside of this, considering the huge emotional impact Cardinal had on me. It feels weird to listen to an album from such a big emotional distance, but the perspective is helpful, I think. I’m still trying to get on board with the especially short micro-songs on this one, but they’re missing for me after a few listens.

Divaman
September 29th 2018


2897 Comments


This is one of those bands that Sputnik has always liked better than I do. (Before the allegations, anyway. I wasn't even aware of any of that until I read your review.) Nice write-up though.

Digging: Metric - Art of Doubt

FreddieDelaney31
September 29th 2018


4808 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Okay so this is growing on me a lot

Digging: Daughters - You Won't Get What You Want

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 29th 2018


28118 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm loving this, way better than Cardinal IMO

FreddieDelaney31
September 29th 2018


4808 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Evan's performance on Cardinal is so ecstatic and varied tho, I miss that with this one a little

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 29th 2018


28118 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I found Cardinal boring, this has such a chill indie/country vibe that I'm just in love with

Between this, mwY, and Allelic, I can't even this week

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
September 29th 2018


2559 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

This is more streamlined, consistent, and less amateur-ish than Cardinal, but I think a lot of the charm is lost in that. I feel like if the album as a whole doesn't grow on me, there'll be nothing much (with respect to individual tracks) I can take from this: on my first few listens, nothing sticks out like Cadmium, Aphasia or Size of the Moon did on first instance. Then again, what are your favourite tracks?

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 29th 2018


28118 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's hard to pick a favorite this early but right off the top I'd say the Rings/Portal/Intrepid opening trio, as well as Angelina, Easy Enough, and Skylight

Would it sound too geeky to say I love them all?

McTime50
September 29th 2018


588 Comments


i need to check this, and this band, out

Digging: The Story So Far - Proper Dose

McTime50
September 29th 2018


588 Comments


sowing, you're always geeky.

you can't change or fix it, only live with it.

Danred97
September 29th 2018


1870 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

After one listen, I think every song is great, but nothing is sticking out like tracks off Cardinal. Then again, it took Cardinal a long time to grow on me, so maybe this will be the same. Eh, I'll stick with a 4 for now.

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
September 29th 2018


2559 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

"Would it sound too geeky to say I love them all?"

No, that's cute. :3

TheNemeton91
September 30th 2018


228 Comments


Honestly all this legal bullshit is none of anyone's business. I hate when this happens in music. I don't have an issue with the review bringing it up since the album lyrics necessarily relate to the matter, but it's aggravating as shit that this band is now steeped in irrelevance. That said, the last Pinegrove I heard was Need 2 at their Audiotree session (much better than the studio/album version), so I seriously need to catch up lol.

Digging: The Water Witch - The Heavens In Traction

ripquill
September 30th 2018


98 Comments


^

The drama was far overblown, and these guys are overrated

Front man on tour uses his position of power to get laid. It's only the millionth time that has happened.

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 30th 2018


28118 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Lol Blush. Do wish you enjoyed this more but you have to be true to your own tastes and standards. This is kind of like my first Pinegrove because I only listened to Cardinal a handful of times before rating it and moving on. That may have something to do with my appreciation for this; I don't have the largest frame of reference and this has really taken on that "first time" appeal that to most fans belongs to one of their earlier records.

HBFS
September 30th 2018


1348 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

If you haven't yet Sowing I'd recommend their Audiotree Live or NPR Tiny Desk concerts which might give a better perspective on some of their older material - they are definitely the kind of band that sound way better live than their recordings imo. Although I am absolutely obsessed with them either way.



This has been on repeat for me since it came out and I love it but so far I'd say it's not on the same level as Cardinal.

Digging: Pinegrove - Skylight



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