I’ll be honest. I really wanted to write about something upbeat and loud this week. I was all ready to review the new Hit the Lights album Invicta. I had listened to it 3-4 times and was ready to spout off about why I loved it and rant about why pop-punk still has merit and why you don’t have to be a saucy curmudgeon about music that is really fun to listen to. Invicta was already on the January page as my album of the week.
And then The Pines stole my heart.
Although it got up to 82 degrees yesterday, it’s technically still winter, so I guess I’ll review a quiet, contemplative, majestic folk album.
First things: this was my very first experience with The Pines. In the interest of full disclosure, I get about 90% of my news on new album releases from Metacritic. I had gone through most of the new albums this week and was ready to start gleefully hammering out my assessment of Invicta (which is still a really good album, by the way) when there, at the very bottom of the January 31 lineup of brand new releases, was some album called Dark So Gold by some band called The Pines.
So I listened to it, as any self-absorbed blogger doing his due diligence and listening to ALL THE MUSIC EVERY WEEK would do.
And it’s good. It is really good.
The Pines are from Minneapolis, which seems to really have ascended into the ranks of Cities Known For Producing A Lot Of Really Good Music in recent years. I suppose being holed up indoors all the time because it’s so freaking cold is good for the creative spirit (it worked for Justin Vernon and Bon Iver, anyway). In fact, the band’s website tells us they have actually shared the stage with Bon Iver, which makes all the sense in the world after hearing the atmosphere of this album.
Dark So Cold is a sleepy album – not in the boring way, but in the way that evokes wistful dream imagery and makes you want to drive around farms and pumpkin patches alone at night for all the right reasons. I just re-read that sentence and it probably makes no sense, but I promise it will as you listen to the album. The dynamics of the album are built around a perfect complementary assembly of stringed instruments, soft percussion, the entrancing voices of frontmen Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt, and piano augmentations that fill in the gaps in all the right places and in all the right ways.
Here’s the video for the mesmerizing lead track, “Cry, Cry, Crow”:
So what kind of people will like Dark So Gold? Well, if you like folk, you will probably like it. If you are also a big fan of the Midwest, you might like it a lot. If you like banjos, upright basses, voices that fall somewhere between David Gray and Bob Dylan, and the occasional steel guitar, you will definitely like it. If you enjoy fall and winter and the scenery they bring, this album is for you. If you are big into chords and melodies and enchantment and emotions and tones that make you feel like you are under a hypnotic spell of some sort and those sort of things, then you are, without a doubt, most definitely the type of person who will like this album.
If I haven’t sold you yet on The Pines, there’s not much else I can do. If I have, it turns out they’ll be playing at South By Southwest this spring, so fellow Austinites, please go with me.
(1) “Cry, Cry, Crow”
(2) “If By Morning”
(5) “Rise Up and Be Lonely”
(6) “Be There in Bells”