Between Rock and an Indie Place: “Intrepid” by Pinegrove

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I have been wanting to review some of Pinegrove’s music for a while, but they haven’t released anything that I could really get into since their astonishing 2016 debut album, Cardinal. Luckily, this grunge/Americana/indie-rock band from Montclair, NJ, have released a terrific single entitled “Intrepid,” late last year in November.

I think this song is a perfect snippet of who Pinegrove are as a band. They possess the almost magical talent of slowly building listeners up with a mellow, synchronous rhythm only to provide us with the ever-so-satisfying, climactic, head-bang-worthy drop. That, combined with the clever word-play in the lyrics and the lead singer’s hypnotic voice, creates an overall very satisfying listening experience.

As far as the lyrics for “Intrepid” go, I think that Evan Stephens Hall (vocals, guitar) has a special gift for putting beautiful words to beautiful music. I think his lyrics have a marvelous simplicity while also being undeniably relatable:

Don’t let it get to you, you said.
Well, I did.
Take a rectangle, untangle your head.
Intrepid.”

And honestly, I love any song that makes me have to go to a dictionary in order to understand the meaning of it. It makes me feel so scholarly. In case you didn’t know like me, intrepid is “characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance,” according to Merriam-Webster.com.

Is it too late to make a New Year’s resolution? I think I am just going to get all my music from now on exclusively from the bands that perform for the NPR Tiny Desk concerts. Seriously, most (if not all) of my favorite bands have played one of those shows which I will randomly stumble upon on YouTube every once and a while. Unsurprisingly, Pinegrove gave a wonderful performance for the Tiny Desk in 2016.

They didn’t perform “Intrepid” for that particular show, since it wasn’t released until almost two years after that. But, okay, if you have listened to their album Cardinal, alongside their latest single, then I will be the one to address the elephant in the room. As much as it pains me to say this, a lot of their songs can sound too similar after a while to some people.

In Pinegrove’s defense, I personally think they find a way to nuance all of their songs with poetic lyrics and original rhythms. Although, I can see where someone might suggest that their albums sound a bit like a broken record. I don’t think they’re quite as versatile a band as, say, Twin Peaks for example, but that’s not where their music shines. I think that they head into the studio with the classic, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ kind of mentality. Pinegrove produces a specific style of Americana music spectacularly well, and I would love to see them continue to capitalize on a signature sound.

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About to go on a bit of a tangent here, in which I will admit that I don’t really listen to a lot of indie music from the northeastern U.S. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not by choice. I visited Boston for the first time last summer, and I would consider myself very fond of New England. Just love what you’ve done with the place, Founding Fathers. Really nice job.

It just seems like indie rock has a difficult time travelling long distances. Being a native of the southwest suburbs of Chicago, most of the indie rock bands that I am intimately familiar with hail from the greater Chicagoland areas. There are only a few outliers in my music library here and there from either coast. Although, my tastes usually gravitate predominantly toward the Midwestern style of indie rock — whatever that may be.

From now on, I am going to make a conscious effort to diversify my indie rock in terms of listening to bands from a variety of regions across the U.S. I would like to get somewhat of a cultural snapshot of indie rock across this country where the indie rock is currently booming. And truth be told, when I think of any kind of music in that upper-right-hand corner of the U.S., I think of Pinegrove.

— Noah Slowik, Music Blogger & Fiction Editor

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