Pinegrove, Marigold, (Rough Trade)
There’s just something about the rugged hippie woodlands and shabby-chic villages of Upstate New York that will turn any band – from urban dandies to suburban basement show veterans – instantly into a junior Levon Helm experimenting with facial hair and farmer plaid and singing about (mid-size) opossums and shit. It’s really just inevitable; something in the water, in the air, in the bygone slipstream left behind by Woodstock, The Basement Tapes, Music From Big Pink, the very concept of goin’ on up the country. If there’s any doubt in your mind about this scientific fact, then consider this new offering from Montclair, NJ’s own Pinegrove. That’s right, Montclair NJ ladies and gentlemen, about as far removed from the laid back, ruralist, back-to-nature pagan vibes of Upstate NY. We’re talking rows upon rows of pristine upper middle-class houses, perfectly sculpted lawns that are never used; 911 calls and parted curtains greet anyone who dares do something so bold as take a walk. This is the terrain Pinegrove rose from, and there was nothing on their excellent run preceding Marigold that they would one day be penning nature-obsessed meditative instrumentals, Doug-Sahm-influenced country shuffles about, well, mid-sized opossums and shit, sweeping, apocalyptic visions of country roads and animals in the headlights, marigolds in the garden and hearts out in the garbage. One doesn’t even need to look up if, at some point between much-adored debut Cardinal and this record, the Boys Of The Grove migrated Upstate. The region lives and breathes in every note and sigh captured on this record. And it fits Pinegrove like a warm pair of mittens purchased at a farmer’s market in downtown Kingston. Warm. That’s the key to the beauty of this thing. From the opening seconds where Stephens Hall lets out a pointed exhale to the tingly final notes of the religious experience of a title track, an autumnal glow settles over the proceedings that works to weave a humanist link between songs that veer from straight-up-folk to Nashville twang to the type of soaring, heart-on-a-wire ragers Stephens Hall seems to be able to crank out on command. While on Everything So Far and Cardinal we had a relatable cavalcade of suburban post-teen romantic and philosophical turbulence and on Skylight a chilly sense of cerebral remove, on Marigold Pinegrove unfolds outward, encompassing Earth and Sky and Community and Human and Animal, ignoring the wreckage on the shoulder to take on an enlightened, though still confused and searching, sense of empathy far removed from the modern day cultural warfare raging on the wifi battlezone.