A young band from Montclair, New Jersey, Pinegrove sound like the good days of Death Cab for Cutie mixed with early Wilco. Although their record came out just last year, their sound exists in the early 2000’s indie rock world where all it took was some slightly discordant guitar riffs and honest lyrics that could appeal to your adolescent listeners.
On the first track “Old Friends,” the lead singer combines lamenting about how he feels that he never made time for the people he cares about following the death of one his friends with the humor of being young and brokenhearted: “I saw your boyfriend at the port authority / It’s a sort of fucked up place / Well so I averted my stride on a quick one / He’s coming back from going over to your place, huh?”
But Cardinal isn’t your usual boy misses girl or nobody cares about me style of teenage alt-rock. In an interview with Pitchfork, lead singer Evan Stephens Hall said that it’s about a “fear of mine that I won’t be able to express myself well enough, or that I’ll be somehow trapped inside myself.” It’s a concept explored on their song “Aphasia,” which is “a neurological condition that prevents the ability to understand or express speech.”
“So satisfied, I said a lot of things tonight,” he sings. It’s a kind of lyrical mindset that appeals to the introvert, someone who could go home from a party feeling like their presence mattered that night, and what they said had some worth to it. And that’s the beauty in Cardinal. It might be just some young guys describing the classic “and then we locked eyes” scene or the “I fucked up everything and now I’m all alone” mentality, but underneath it all sits a greater message about the need to be able to express yourself and be heard. It’s not an alt-rock record about angst. It’s about becoming more mature.
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