Back in 2020, just a few months after the release of their fourth album Marigold, Pinegrove lead singer Evan Stephens Hall indicated that the band would possibly slow down. Graduate school, a desire to start families, and general exhaustion were cited, and Hall was noncommittal about the band’s immediate future.
If there were any serious signs that the band might be entering a permeant hiatus, they have been dispelled by the group’s latest release, 11:11. Settling into professional studios for the first time, the band unravel 11 tracks in an unhurried and laid back manner like they’re trying to reflect a new sense of peace and relaxation.
Hitting the ground running with the “overture” opening track, ‘Habitat’ is the one song on the album that seems to embrace the group’s rougher and more aggressive past. As if to signal their intentions with the album as a whole, the louder first section eventually falls away as sounds of nature take over. From this point on, the band settle into a far more tranquil sonic space.
The harder edges of the band’s emo roots are sanded down on the new album. Hall doesn’t feel the need to raises his voice above his middle registre, and drummer Zack Levine is noticeably more restrained that he’s ever been on tracks like ‘Iodine’ and ‘Respirate’. Whereas the band were comfortable hitting a volatile explosion point in the past, a more reserved calmness surrounds most of the songs on 11:11.
There’s a noticeable pastoral element to the group’s sound that hasn’t been as apparent on previous albums. Icy synths are now replaced by warm natural pianos on tracks like ‘Flora’. Acoustic guitars are more prominent than ever before, and nature plays a major role in the lyrics from across the album, most noticeably on ‘Alaksa’ and ‘Swimming’.
It’s enough to make 11:11 feel like a concept album about escaping into the forest. There’s a prominent feeling of getting away from it all, getting back to the earth, and simplifying an otherwise chaotic life. Whether it’s a good or a bad thing, the band still end up sounding very much like themselves on their past work, despite the overhaul of the arrangements. For fans, that will be perfect. For anyone else, it might not be enough to fully bring them over to a band that admittedly has some baggage.
But solid work is solid work, and Pinegrove have once again come through with a solid album on 11:11. It’s an LP with enough layers of interest to warrant more than just a single listen, but it retains enough of the band’s signature sound not to rock the boat too much. For a band like Pinegrove, just staying afloat is a victory in and of itself.