Review Summary: Pinegrove decides their old music just isn’t quite good enough, so they make it better
It’s not immediately apparent what makes Pinegrove stand out the way they do in the world of indie rock. On the surface, there’s nothing unique about their playing style, instrumentation, or subject matter. But once they’ve sunk their hooks into you it’s honestly hard to name a band that sounds like them. Their blend of strong, heartfelt vocals, laid back yet rhythmically satisfying instrumentation and honest indie sadboy lyricism makes for a very compelling listen. And the fact that they literally just rereleased 21 old songs, yet they sound so fresh and interesting, is a testament to that.
Amperland, NY contains most of the best songs from Pinegrove’s last 4 albums, with the exception of Cardinal for whatever reason. Over the span of those 4 albums they shifted slightly from emo-tinged indie rock to, uh, country-tinged emo-tinged indie rock, with their style remaining largely the same over the years, but becoming incrementally more atmospheric. Amperland, NY mixes the sound of all their past work to stunningly beautiful effect. Their arrangements are as catchy and pleasant as ever, but the increased prominence of twangy slide guitars and various alt-country sounds lends an increased sense of atmosphere, while slight additions and variations on old guitar and drum patterns breathe new life into these songs. They found a way to really lay that atmosphere on thick, while also ensuring the instrumentals are consistently interesting. These elements really compliment each other here rather than taking away from each other. And the fact that the sound is so dense here adds a lot of energy, like on the brief “Overthrown,” which has maybe their “heaviest” sound to date, which only adds to the power Evan’s vocals have.
There’s no understating just how excellent his vocals really are. He doesn’t even have to be singing yet for these songs to lull you into a feeling of serenity, but once they do, it makes for something truly unique and special in the world of indie rock. There’s a million singers who have a similar voice to him, but very few even come close to being as emotive. This makes simple sentiments in his lyrics hit hard, and it’s clear that a lot of thought went into the subtleties of the vocal melodies here. He makes some slight changes that really go a long way, and has an excellent sense of when to give an impassioned, cathartic performance and when to dial it back in. Some slightly inconsistent mixing hinders the vocals just slightly (as well as the bass) but ultimately they’re the star of the show, and he’s never sounded better.
Pinegrove really isn’t doing anything new here. They literally just decided that instead of releasing new music, they’ll re-release a big batch of their old stuff, but just... better. But rather than feeling like a deliberate, laboured reconstruction, it feels almost effortless. Like they’ve just improved as a band, and decided to improve on their current body of work because why not. If you’re not a fan of this style of music in general this won’t do anything to win you over, but if you’ve found them to be just alright, the way they’ve fleshed these songs out, combined with the charm of the pseudo-live setting, might just win you over.