I get the feeling that Pinegrove knows exactly what they’re doing. The thing that they’ll have trouble coping with is, as once so elegantly put by some millionaires from Ireland, that the band is stuck within a moment that they can’t get out of (I’m paraphrasing here, folks.) Pinegrove is neither too young to claim a newfound discovery of Jeff Magnum (oh, who among us wouldn’t cheat, lie, and steal to be in exactly that situation, eh?) nor are they established enough to ride the wave of early 2000’s accolades from Pitchfork. They’re also from Jersey which dooms them profoundly and immediately. No, these fellas have entered their latest, Marigold, onto Rough Trade on the good grace of pretty vocals and even prettier production. Not an inherently poor plan, but one has to wonder – when is it going to get weird?
Pinegrove’s latest is the type of music some small town too-cool-for-school types with big city aspirations might listen to after they’ve exhausted all their options on a Friday night. It’s just unique enough to warrant “Phase’s” inclusion on a playlist generated from Spotify, but since when is a slight Western guitar considered “unique enough?” (The answer is “always.” See: CSNY, Pavement, Wilco, etc…)
I do appreciate the journey of hopelessness chronicled on record, and there’s always a distinct comfort in realizing that there is indeed still sad bastard music receiving acclaim. But for how long can this trend hold true? Sure, Pinegrove sounds sad enough, but I’m not fully convinced they’re aware of what dire straights they’re in.
And lo, an idea penetrated my thick noggin. What if, and stay with me here, this is one of those unique middle of the road apathy records? No sarcasm is suggested at this probing idea. Marigold might just be the first true neutral-neutral album of the decade. What’s first chalked up as non-committal might simply be the balanced exploration of both negative and positive. Why, “Neighbor” has got to be one of the most ordinary tracks I’ve heard in some time, but there’s beautiful about that. It could be that Pinegrove wants to promote the idea of, as a purple bespectacled philosopher once put it, feeling stuck in the middle without a way out (or something like that.)
Perhaps the trend of 2020 will be more apathy and middle ground, a place people much smarter than I have described as “mindful.” It may not have the bravado of slackers nor the decadence of Grammy nominees, but that’s just fine. There ought to be more room for normalcy.