Album of the Week: Pinegrove | Amperland, NY

It’s a movie. It’s a reimagining. It’s a kickass album.

Pinegrove was new to me up until last week when Roon Radio tuned me in, and turned me on.  Pinegrove, the band, is singer-songwriter Evan Stephens Hall and drummer Zack Levine surrounding by a rotating cast of characters for each release. Their recording history looks a bit like an ice hockey player’s smile, with albums in 2012 (Meridian), 2016 (Cardinal), 2018 (Skylight), 2020 (Marigold), and Amperland, NY which was released on Rough Trade in January of this year.

From the release notes:

Pinegrove have revealed details of a new feature length film, Amperland, NY, and accompanying soundtrack album to be released digitally on January 15th and physically on February 26th on Rough Trade. The film, scripted from a short story by Pinegrove’s Evan Stephens Hall and directed by Kenna Hynes, was filmed at the band’s long time home in upstate New York, known as “Amperland” to Pinegrove and their fans, prior to the house being sold by the owner earlier this year.

The film, produced in conjunction with Chromoscope Pictures, and described by Evan as “fun, hopefully poignant, definitely weird ”, includes 22 songs – a full set list length of performances – spanning the band’s entire career to date. Those new renditions of old gems, recorded live in the Amperland house by Pinegrove’s Sam Skinner, will be released as a soundtrack album – also titled Amperland, NY.

It’s a soundtrack. It’s worth noting that Hall and Levine hail from Montclair, NJ which sits roughly 7 miles from my home town. Granted, these neighbors were born years after I graduated college but we share NJ roots nonetheless. I’ve read references to the music of Pinegrove as being alt-country and emo which makes me think of nothing in particular. Hall has described the band as being a midpoint between math rock and Americana and language-arts rock.

Genres are signs people hang on music to make it seem more familiar than it really is. Like saying someone is from NJ and thinking that says all you need to know. I have a typical NJ response to that, but it’s vulgar.

I hear all kinds of things in Amperland, NY with its jangly guitars, loose but nice interplay, and searching vocals with lyrics that twist and turn like life. The band’s use of instruments like banjo and pedal steel guitar certainly add some country twang [footnote 1], but we’re talking about a lovely mixed bag of influences that add up to something new.

I’m enjoying the entire Pinegrove package, and have started to dive back into their older music with great delight. Lend Pinegrove and ear and you may be equally delighted with what you find.

  1. Fun Fact: the inventor of the Cowboy Hat, John B. Stetson, was born about 7 miles from the Pinegrove boys.