The wind carried the snow in swirls as I walked to the edge of the parking lot. The lights in the hills poking out beyond the stripped branches became clearer as the treeline faded. I came to the edge of the parking lot and sucked in the early morning air. The snapping came in softly from the opener of Pinegrove’s 11:11, “Habitat” as I sat on the sidewalk of the parking lot and watched Ithaca’s cascade of lights rooted in the horizon flicker in the darkness. The patting percussion built upon the quiet instrumental layers, accented snares replacing the snaps naturally within the context of the flowy, subtle synths and infectious, mournful guitar. It was pure audio mediation.
11:11 is an excellent album—let me get that out of the way now. Pinegrove has yet to release a disappointing record, and this newest endeavor feels like a true culmination of their emo-ish roots, lyrical vulnerability, Americana twang, and indie rock hooks.
The production is lush and natural, courtesy of a full-blown studio effort instead of their normal homegrown method of production and a mix from Chris Walla, most known for his work with Death Cab For Cutie. This work is most evident in tracks like the opener, “Habitat,” or my personal favorite from the album, “Iodine.”
I think that track is an embodiment of everything Pinegrove wants to be, and now, with 11:11, is. The lyrics are comforting and challenging, all while being personal to Evan Stephens Hall’s distinct lyrical voice. The instrumentation is vast and smartly implemented, and man, when those drums come in—let’s just say there’s a reason why Zach Levine is one of my favorite drummers. The rhythmic patterns here feel like they’re lurching forward while still in the cool groove. The harmonies that pour forth during the choruses are gorgeous and contemplative.
The natural feel of Pinegrove’s songs extend to the content of their lyrics too. Tracks like the sweeping “Orange” seek to explore the climate crisis in a passionate and relatable dialogue: “I tried to down the bluest pill / The author of the fucking bill / Bragging on Youtube, the criminals he’d kill.”
“Respirate” was a track that took a minute to settle in my mind. It’s slower, more wandering than the tighter and catchier tracks on the album. However, like with most Pinegrove songs, if you don’t like it right off the bat, it’ll connect after a few listens.
The only track I struggle remembering the sound of is the album’s closer, “11th Hour.” In the context of the album as a listening experience, the track works as a satisfying conclusion. But, compared to the likes of “Swimming,” “So What,” “Cyclone,” “Let,” or the barnyard-banger, “Flora,” I don’t find myself returning to it very often.
11:11 might just be the most cohesive, satisfying Pinegrove album yet, which is saying a lot since their other records are incredible and have left a real and lasting impact on my life. I recommend 11:11 wholeheartedly to just about anyone. Even with the already steep—and I mean steep—competition for albums of the year in 2022, I see this falling solidly as one of the best.
Ryan Vincent is a first-year writing major. They can be reached at [email protected].