Album Review: Rebirth and renewal on Pinegrove’s “Skylight”

“Relationships serve as the overarching theme in “Skylight” — be it personal, environmental, between friends or between lovers.”

Staff Reporter

Evan Hall, the frontman of Pinegrove, sings, “I draw a line in my life / Singing this is the new way I behave now,” in the opening line of “Rings,” from the band’s newest album, “Skylight.” These words of reconciliation and self-renewal are particularly meaningful in light of sexual coercion accusations raised against Hall in Nov. 2017 that caused the band to go on a nine-month hiatus.

After posting an ambiguous public statement and delaying the release of “Skylight” late last year, audiences everywhere wondered if the events that transpired signaled the demise of one of the most promising bands of the independent music scene.

Pinegrove has returned and made clear that they never had any intention of breaking up, and reaffirmed their unwavering support for Hall. In his time off from touring, Hall underwent a process of intensive therapy, reflection and reconciliation to make peace with the accuser and himself. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, he clarified that the accusations were never physical in nature, were originally intended to be private and that the intervention of the organization Punk Talks only complicated matters, causing further harm for all parties involved.

Even though “Skylight” was recorded before any of the events occurred, its lyrics are eerily applicable to the aftermath and process of moving forward in the face of uncertainty. It calls for the listener to consider their treatment of the self and others, while simultaneously offering a refreshingly positive message of understanding and resilience.

Relationships serve as the overarching theme in “Skylight” — be it personal, environmental, between friends or between lovers. Some examples are the songs “Paterson & Leo,” an ode to committed friends, “Intrepid,” a look the impact of distance in relationships making feelings fonder and more complicated and “Portal,” which chronicles the complicated process of looking back on a past love.

An emphasis on time, place and interaction in the lyrics evoke a certain sense of safety and warm nostalgia. They are direct enough to form defined images, but vague enough to be filled in with everyone’s personal narratives. Listeners are encouraged to reflect on who and what has made an impact on their lives and how they would be different without those experiences.

The warmth of words is matched by a warmth in tone, giving a tender voice to the emotions felt. Reverb-laden rhythm and slide lead guitars, cathartic instrumental buildups and Hall’s exceptional vocal performance make the album truly special and easy to connect with. His vulnerability, imperfection and honesty in delivery make it sound intimate and beautiful.

The title-track, “Skylight,” and the closer, “Light On,” both adopt a metaphor of escaping the clutches of mental darkness by finding the strength to rise up toward the light in bettering yourself. Hall reassures that “whatever you’re feeling is natural,” and that you must “let you / let go.” Belief is placed in us and serves as a reminder that we are united, strong and capable of love — an essential message for these divided times.

Pinegrove will return to touring in a few weeks and has made the decision to donate 100 percent of the profits from “Skylight” to Musicares, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Voting Rights Project as a sign of their commitment to positive social activism.

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