Everything So Far, the recently reissued debut from the ragged Montclair, New Jersey rock outfit Pinegrove, is more of a compilation than an album. Its whopping 21 songs account for over five years of work that was previously spread over multiple small releases until Boston label Run For Cover Records compiled and released it online in 2015. But despite its chronologically and thematically disparate nature, Everything So Far comes together to paint a beautifully cohesive picture of youth, introspection, and experience, and serves as a fitting precursor to Pinegrove’s critically acclaimed sophomore album Cardinal.
The album opens with “New Friends”, a track that was later repurposed as Cardinal’s closer. “New Friends” describes the feeling of isolation after letting old friendships fade and represents one of Pinegrove’s most anthemic songs to date. It also serves as a perfect introduction to the unassumingly brilliant lyricism of songwriter and bandleader Evan Stephens Hall. “New Friends” is followed by “Angelina”, a simple but affecting rock ballad that finds Hall’s rootsy twang musing about nostalgia and a codependent relationship. Some of the album’s most subtle instrumentation and introspective lyrics can be found two tracks later on “Need”, in which sparkling guitar notes rise out of the ether around impassioned acoustic strumming and uncertain vocals. On “Namesake”, Hall sings about self-doubt and the fear of being unable to express yourself with the lines “I’ve been trying to say, but these awful letters rearrange my name, my namesake”.
This is an example of what makes Pinegrove songs so effective; each one takes a specific thought or emotion, often those that are particularly rich and complex, and expresses them with concision and strikingly literate grace. On “Morningtime”, one of the album’s highlights, Hall manages to express the ethos of the project he has embarked upon with Pinegrove in the lines, “I’ve been trying to capture both ends of the splinter: the visible part between my fingernails and the part still in my finger,” and later, “Ever since I can remember, since the day before they split, I’ve been trying to capture some realm I don’t know yet”. The songs on this album are vastly different in tone, duration, and lyrical content, but each one allows the audience to occupy a particular emotional space, whether it be conversational or introspective, see that space the way Pinegrove does, and perhaps come to better understand how we engage with those emotions ourselves. Each piece in this 21-song missive of self-discovery contributes to a rich and explorative tapestry of human experience. Everything So Far follows Pinegrove on a journey to find their voice, one where every stop is meaningful and perfectly in place.