This past Friday, Pinegrove released their latest album, 11:11, to overwhelming praise from the indie rock band’s fan base. This album drop followed three pre-released singles: “Alaska,” “Orange” and “Respirate,” which, upon release, quickly became some of their top songs on Spotify. The rest of the album did not disappoint, featuring beautifully slow songs and drum-heavy, upbeat sounds, and exploring a mix of subjects ranging from politics to personal relationships.
Pinegrove is a popular band among Kenyon students not only for its beautiful songwriting, but because the lead singer of the band, Evan Stephens Hall ’11, is an alumnus. The band is named for the beloved spot in the Brown Family Environmental Center made up of a cluster of pine trees, where Hall is said to have gone for moments of reflection.
Before the release, the band put out guitar tabs of each of their songs, including the lyrics as a challenge for dedicated listeners to construct their own versions. They posted videos of fans singing their unreleased songs, which can be found in the story highlights section of their Instagram account, @pinegroveband. These “covers” were an exciting build up to the release of the album, and established a feeling of connection between the band and their fans.
Each song on the album sticks to the band’s classic sound, which is instantly recognizable to anyone who knows them. The theme of the album, however, turns more in a political direction than their previous releases, particularly around the theme of the climate crisis. The song “Orange,” for example, is written about the disturbing West Coast skies during the 2020 California wildfires. The closing lines of this song encapsulate this in a heartbreaking way: “They’re trying to ignore it / We always knew they’d try / Today the sky is orange / And you and I know why.”
The album ends with a slower song, “11th Hour,” which is (satisfyingly) the 11th track. It ends abruptly, urging listeners to realize that we are in the 11th hour, the last possible time to act. This is a call back to the theme of “Orange,” and many of the other tracks attempt to put into words a multitude of collective traumas from the time it was written. “Respirate” and “Let” are two examples of reflective songs that emphasize dealing with mental health in the time of COVID-19.
“Alaska,” a catchy track which includes the line from which the album is named, has become their second most popular song on Spotify. This song is about a plane ride from Alaska to Orlando, but ultimately juggles the sadder themes of the album. It is the second song on the album, but in many ways “Alaska” is the one that ties the whole album together.
Overall, this album did not disappoint, even if the sound did not stray far from their previous four albums. The strong songwriting and beautiful chord progressions make this album well worth the listen, especially given the pressing message it sends out. 11:11 fits perfectly with the rest of their discography in an impressive display of musical talent.