Pile
Green and Gray


4.5
superb

Review

by WatchItExplode USER (13 Reviews)
May 14th, 2019 | 31 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A pleasant little road trip to god-knows-where.

Green & Gray is an album that revealed itself to me in waves. Having exactly zero prior knowledge of the band Pile, I was unburdened by expectation. This proved to be a blessing. After an initial listen I was fairly convinced that this recording was something special. Yet, it was only a transient feeling. The “why” remained elusive. Seeking context, I learned of Pile’s noisy history, DIY aesthetic, and knack for garnering an unusually enthusiastic fanbase. This knowledge brought me no closer to the “why” I sought, because Green and Gray is not static. Its answers aren’t lying around in plain view. It’s a tumultuous beast, and it cares not for that which exists outside of itself. Ultimately, the only way round’ the beast is through, and this is an album that only reveals its secrets to an attentive ear.

I said that Pile’s Green and Gray revealed itself to me in waves and I meant it. The image of surf retreating after crashing ashore was clear in my mind only minutes into the album’s runtime. The opening salvo of songs undulate and swell, building upon the plaintive vocals and sepia toned-instrumentals of “Firewood”. The gurgling swell continues, slowly, subtly growing in intensity. When the stilted aggression of “On a Bigger Screen” hits you in the face, you may very well find you have lost your bearings. “How was it the tide should rise so high without my knowing"” The siren’s song of a seductively-metered guitar melody nudges the listener toward reflection as “Other Moons” is revealed in the wash of what came before.

It is in these contemplative moments that I was able catch my breath and begin to process what I had been exposed to. Later, I would realize that for every grand swell there were half a dozen dynamic shifts, often several per song. Green and Gray is an album constantly at odds with itself, never content to stay in one place for long. This ebb and flow somehow feels totally organic, even though the frequent stops and starts are often jarring. Moment to moment, song to song, and swell to swell, the music found here is perpetually morphing into disparate forms. It’s not genre-hopping, as everything is built from the same pool of rocking reminiscence and punky lament. Pile’s ability to stretch their sound from comforting to unsettling is impressive, and the speed with which the shifts take place even more so.

Songwriter and vocalist Rick McGuire’s “singing” ranges from hushed coos to taught shouting to flat-out bile on microphone unpleasantries. Yet, somehow the instruments perfectly accompany the tone and tempo of these massive musical mood swings. I feel the rhythm section deserves a special shout, as keeping the reins on this unwieldy creature cannot be easy. Now, in all fairness the kindest adjectives I can conjure when thinking of Mr. McGuire’s voice are words like “earnest” or “authentic”. These vocals are not for everyone and will likely be the deciding factor for most listeners. At multiple points during my first listen I clearly remember thinking to myself “these vocals sound like they were recorded in a wet paper bag”. I’ll just say that the first time you hear Rick’s heart-on-his-sleeve falsetto rise above the dust and din of another collapsed song structure you should feel something. If you don’t, this is not the album for you.

About halfway through Green & Gray “The Soft Hands of Stephen Miller” uproots the listener from any relative comfort they may have found in the preceding material. After being greeted by an elastic riff dripping with urgency and the Morrison-esque announcement “from a long line of translucent lizards comes our boy Stephen” it should be readily apparent that you are along for a wild ride, one you hadn’t anticipated. A pleasant little road trip to god-knows-where. The anticipation and excitement can make your hair stand on end.

At least, that’s how this writer felt while listening to Green and Gray. I could continue to wax poetic in my attempt to sell you on this remarkable album; like the way “A Labyrinth With No Center” is the perfect microcosm of everything contained here, right down to the perfectly apropos title. I could mention “Bruxist Grin” and its jangly guitar melody seemingly born of another era altogether. I could speak of the power and suspense generated by de facto closer “Hiding Places”. But, I already told you. The only way to wrap your head around this brute is to face it. You are just going to have to listen.



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user ratings (63)
Chart.
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Doomcifer
May 14th 2019


6 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

" Ultimately, the only way round’ the beast is through, and this is an album that only reveals its secrets to an attentive ear."



Fuckin' right! Like I said before, AOTY potential right here. Give it the time and attention that it deserves to sink it's hooks into you and you'll be rewarded a hundredfold.

brainmelter
May 14th 2019


6587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice, excited to hear this

Digging: nabosoposkle - s/t

WatchItExplode
May 14th 2019


7042 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This blew my damn head off. [2]

Ashtiel
May 14th 2019


606 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great review, about time someone reviewed this. "Hair" is one of my favorite tracks I've heard all year.

Digging: Oh Sees - Face Stabber

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
May 14th 2019


2995 Comments


A WatchItExplode review? In 2019? I'd say I were dreaming but my brain couldn't come up with anything this good. So good.

Digging: Florist (NY) - Emily Alone

WatchItExplode
May 14th 2019


7042 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I couldn't convince verdant to do it and I felt this needed a home for discussion. Trying to flex the writing muscles before they atrophy completely.

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
May 14th 2019


16666 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Loving this album so far

verdant
Staff Reviewer
May 14th 2019


2419 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

so right about the dynamic shifts ! record moves more freely than any other album i can recall. it doesn't feel like there's any highlights at all to this thing until you stop for a second and realize that half of the tracklist has had an impact on u.



anyway this is better than anything i would've come up with. very nice work : D

verdant
Staff Reviewer
May 14th 2019


2419 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i will pull for you if that's what you want me to do / but i like to move fast and i demand you allow me to

WatchItExplode
May 14th 2019


7042 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I very much doubt that but thank you verdant.



Also how often do you encounter an album where a single song has multiple highlights or three songs pass without any clear division? It's just enchanting.

pennyroyal22
May 14th 2019


56 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is how a music review should be done. Such a great change of pace from the usual thesaurus abuse.

pennyroyal22
May 14th 2019


56 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

And yeah, this album's pretty fantastic. It's about tied with 'Hairshirt' for me, that may edge this out in the end, but god damn is Pile (or Rick and Kris) consistent

verdant
Staff Reviewer
May 15th 2019


2419 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

the album strikes that balance so damn well

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
May 15th 2019


16666 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think Hairshirt might have an edge over this still, if only because of "Dogs"

WatchItExplode
May 15th 2019


7042 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I guess I should be checking Hairshirt.

JS19
May 16th 2019


7267 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Did not expect this to be such a highlight woah

WillieD
May 17th 2019


217 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I love Pile, but man, the sound quality on their albums really leaves something to be desired. This may be their worst sounding album. They could really benefit from having someone like Albini produce for them.

WatchItExplode
May 17th 2019


7042 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I really feel like it's just the vocals that are the issue with this particular album. But if they weren't so distant and reverby this album could definitely garner more attention.

pennyroyal22
May 18th 2019


56 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah I struggle to enjoy their music through their usual album production. I honestly wonder what edict Rick gives them that makes their albums all sound that way. I think they may either record a lot of it live, at once, and I have the feeling Rick's vocals may actually be recorded via amp-to-microphone (the way electric guitars are usually recorded) as opposed to pre-amped directly to the recording.

WatchItExplode
May 18th 2019


7042 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's a shame. It's still an amazing album once you get past the vocals but if they meshed with the rest of the recording better it would really help their cause.



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