In the weeks leading up to my 20th birthday, I discovered a band called Hum. They ran a tight underground groove in the late 1990s, and, if we’re being blunt, they remain one of the most important American bands of that decade. Very few people still listen to them. The ones that do tend to be kindred spirits. This band blew my head wide open and twisted me up for years. They ruined me on some level. And sometimes, in dark hours, I wish I hadn’t found their music. But the songwriting is on a level rarely paralleled, so I keep with it.
On the eve of my 28th birthday, I landed on a song in September 2016 by a band called Pinegrove from Montclair, N.J., and I was hooked. All I really do in my off-time is listen to music or play guitar or read books, so when a young artist sends me into the stratosphere with his or her songwriting, well, I’m all ears and eyes and etc.
Don’t sleep on Evan Stephens Hall and his band. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year watching this cat play guitar and sing and reading his stuff in interviews with a solid assembly of music writers. He gets it, and I don’t apply that clause without cause. Dude’s the real deal.
What’s weird, though, is that Pinegrove quickly got lumped in with the post-emo bands of the past 10 years, and yet while, sure, there are Neil Youngish chord progressions throughout that last album, the band falls more in line with Stoic philosophy than any other new indie band on the scene. (Like Hum did in 2008, Pinegrove spoke to me at a critical juncture in 2016.)
“It makes sense to me that there’s a certain…that people are detecting a kinship between what we do and emo,” Hall said in July 2016. “It’s lyrically confessional, it’s emotionally direct, and emotive vocally, frequently. Well, actually…so there’s this article in Westword by Katie Moulton, it was a review of our concert in Denver. And she really put her finger on it, I think: emo points inwards and it’s our aim to point outwards.”
Listen: I care deeply about this music. It’s important, and it’s a meaningful reminder of what I’m doing with my own life. At the end of the day, I should call my parents when I think of them. And I should tell my friends when I love them. Cue Cardinal.
What’s the worst that could happen?