- Tom The Lion
We’re not here to talk about politics, we’re here to talk about PINEGROVE. The New Jersey indie rock band have returned after a year-long hiatus with their 2018 album Skylight. Pinegrove’s unique blend of Americana instrumentation and angst-ridden confessional songwriting is unrivalled, making them hard to categorise. Calling the band ‘emo-country’ would leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth, so perhaps it’s best they’re described as a crossroads between American Football and Wilco.
Rough Trade-championed duo TOM THE LION open the show tonight. They’re a bit more electronic than Pinegrove, yet still fitting the bill with their atmospheric and melancholic songs. They swirl in a sea of synths that evoke the deep sadness of Jeff Buckley with the London swagger of James Blake. Nearing the end of the set, the frontman announces, “Our drummer is from Liverpool,” to large cheers from the crowd of Scouse hipsters who are starting to pile in.
It is not often you hear a band playing in the Arts Club that features a lap-steel guitar. Pinegrove’s latest release is far more mellow than their previous two releases, Everything So Far and Cardinal. The album is their most unified and strongest release to date, full of bittersweet triumphant ballads. The most beautiful moments of the night come from the slow-burner Intrepid, and the tender track title track of their most recent release, Skylight. Frontman Evan Hall sings, “Let you let go/whatever you’re feeling is natural”. Older tunes Angelina and Size Of The Moon get the crowd going and singing along, with the latter showing off Hall’s writing skills, including a mock conversation with himself in which he reminisces, “Fine, yeah, I know, I remember that too/In your living room, right?/When we began to fight but then we both felt confused/Then we were laughing and crying in awe of the size of the moon.”
Hall strikes me as an intellectual, and a bit of a nerd, rattling off facts about the lightbulb, his hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, and George Harrison in between songs. “Flock Of Seagulls – your greatest export,” he says wryly before a quick jab at the Aintree races. “Poor horses, honestly, seems pretty fucked up to me,” he says. His songs are equally as pointed and lyrically dense as his character would lead you to believe. Bob Dylan and Neil Young are clear influences on his thinking and lyricism. Despite this, the crowd doesn’t have a problem singing along to Old Friends, a song which culminates in the thought dawning on Hall: “I should call my parents when I think of them/Should tell my friends when I love them”. Throughout Skylight, Hall’s songs feel like pure catharsis as he irons out his growing pains. On stage we witness him passionately grapple with themes of isolation, acceptance, and the realisation that life really isn’t all that bad at all.