“…I wanna do much better,” Pinegrove’s lead singer Evan Stephens Hall laments on Pinegrove’s new Skylight final track, “Light On.” In light of the controversy surrounding the band’s latest self-released album, these foreboding words might sound eerie and disconcerting– but still remain completely and quintessentially Pinegrove.
In the wake of the #MeToo era, Pinegrove, more specifically lead singer Evan Stephens Hall, was accused of—and admitted to—sexual misconduct. Hall released a statement following the accusation through a long Facebook post, and the band put a hold on releasing Skylight, canceled their upcoming tour and took time to process as Hall sought treatment. Many fans struggled with these new realities, taking their own time to reflect on whether or not they would continue to even call themselves fans.
While listening to Skylight, these allegations are impossible to ignore. Unintentional foreshadowing is scattered throughout the album: on “Thanksgiving,” a short track that feels like a slow walk through a cold autumn evening, Hall wonders to himself, “what do I have to be nervous for?”
The album begins with the rain-like sound of pattering drums, opening “Rings”– enveloping listeners back into the atmosphere of Pinegrove: sounds that are as comforting as they are hopelessly contemplative. “I draw a line in my life / singing this is the new way I behave now / and actually live by the shape of that sound,” Hall recites on the opening track.
Tracks on Skylight sound like short stories and barely remembered memories more than full fledged songs. With many tracks being between the one to two minute mark, listening to songs like wistful “Paterson and Leo,” one feels transported inside their own memories of a lost friendship left behind or the gut wrenching pain of losing something meaningful.
Like 2016’s Cardinal, Pinegrove’s new work loves introspection– but this time, not to the point of combustion. Skylight is thoughtful, softer and perhaps more delicate than its predecessor. If Cardinal was about struggling to find words, Skylight is about finding those words and trying to live comfortably in them. While relatively optimistic songs like “Darkness” examine the never ending ache to be known and understood, it is the album’s final track, “Light On” that encapsulates the true essence of Skylight. The slow pace of drums and crooning guitar unfold not with sorrow, but with the gradualness and leisure of a morning walk as the sun breaks. Hall serenades listeners through the cadences of the piano, taking his time in expressing how beautiful it is to find yourself in someone else.
Above all, Skylight is about moving forward. It reaches within us (and perhaps Hall himself) and tells us that it is okay to leave some things behind, to move forward, to leave behind parts of yourself in search of the skylight that leads to better ones.