Pinegrove’s new album, 11:11, is about the state of the world and the listener within it. During 11 tracks, it touches on personal, political, and environmental themes. The instrumentation is similar to their last album, Marigold. Acoustic and electric guitars form the basis of the songs while pedal steel and vocal harmonies add layers of ambience on top. 11:11 is Pinegrove’s most cohesive work to date, falling somewhere along the lines of mellow indie rock with angsty twang.
The album’s title brings the concept of time to the forefront. Certain songs place the listener in the present while referencing things like the pandemic, whereas others like “Swimming” take us back in time, detailing childhood experiences. Perhaps the frontman, Evan Stephens Hall, feels as though time is slipping away, as he grows into his early 30s.
The feeling of place in “Habitat” and “Alaska” grounds the album, yet also opens up the perspective of how big the world is. It adds familiarity when mentioning specific places, such as Orlando, but is also an experience that differs from the listener’s.
The album largely focuses on the present tense by talking about the current state of the world. “Orange” encapsulates Hall’s frustration with the government in regards to the climate crisis. This turns the band away from personal narrative seen more in Pinegrove’s earlier work. It encourages the listener to form their own experiences rather than solely portraying the experience of the artist. Hall frequently posts political content on Instagram, which reinforces the album’s themes.
“Orange” references the pandemic in the lyrics “When Corona hit / I was already feeling pretty out of it.” When art talks about current times, it is often hard to convey authentic feelings without sounding cliché. With a world so connected, it feels as if everything is being talked about all of the time. It is almost tiring to hear about it in music when it seems to be in every other form of media. The line mentioning the pandemic seems a little too on the nose compared to the rest of the lyrical content on the album.
The strongest of the record is “Iodine,” through which a journey unfolds of glimmering acoustic guitars, a syncopated rhythmic drum beat, and a vulnerable yet comforting vocal performance from Hall. Touching on themes of feeling down, he describes mild desperation with the lyrics, “I’m spiraled up inside / My iridescent mind is reaching up for something pure and/or actual.” It is about wanting to grasp anything tangible when things are misaligned. It is a subtle experience, which is hard to articulate, especially in the moments of living it. Hall is not grabbing at low-hanging fruit with this song — he stretches far from cliché while still presenting a relatable experience.
Compared to Pinegrove’s earlier music, 11:11 has a broader awareness of one’s place in the world and space of time. The work still contains enough personal experience for the listener to connect with it on an intimate level however. The album forms a beautiful story, without a distinct beginning, middle, or end.