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Pinegrove / Saintseneca / Adult Mom at Union Transfer
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After a number of different releases and years of touring, Montclair, New Jersey’s Pinegrove have offered their finest work to
date with their newest LP, Cardinal. The band’s captivating blend of indie rock, pop and country elements is more vivid, fine-tuned, and addictive than ever before. Vocalist/guitarist Evan Stephens Hall along with brothers Zack Levine (drums) and Nick Levine (guitar) form a core that has been playing together since early childhood. Painting his emotions onto these songs with colorful and kinetic strokes, Hall moves through Cardinal’s eight songs with unforgettable energy and passion, with a vocal performance that is pleasantly reminiscent of Will Oldham and Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch. Highlighted by the downtrodden nostalgia of twangy opener “Old Friends” and the climactic refrain of “Size of the Moon,” where the confession “I don’t know what I’m afraid of,” is just as much of a sing-a-long as it is an emotional breakdown, moods don’t stay in one place for very long on Cardinal - they are carefully crafted and revisited throughout to continually evoke the album’s central themes of memory, language, and home.
At the intriguing intersection of metaphysics and rock and roll, you will find the new Saintseneca album Such Things. While the thematic concerns of the record address the very nature of human consciousness, the decidedly hook-centric sound serves as a delightfully visceral counterpoint, infusing the band’s unique melding of folk, punk and epic rock with a very earthly sense of groove. At its core, Such Things is entirely accessible and undeniably powerful, unquestionably Saintseneca’s most cohesive, catchy output, and a work that cements the band’s singer songwriter Zac Little’s status as one of modern indie music’s most thoughtful and talented artists.
Bolstering the more streamlined “pop” compositions is a raucous and fuzzed out sonic palette that beautifully accentuates the record’s power of engagement.“When we were getting ready to record with Mike (Mogis of Bright Eyes), I told him I wanted the songs to be filtered through sixties psychedelic pop,” Little explains. “Not like a throwback record, because I didn’t write those type of songs. What we wanted were modern songs that sounded like a band had gone back in time to record them.”
Since its origin in 2007 as an teenage bluegrass outfit in Appalachian Ohio, then its growth to a large, multi-instrumental live rock and folk collective whose onstage experiments would find their way to tape on 2011’s Last, and then the more traditional approach of writing and recording in making Dark Arc, Saintseneca has largely been Little’s machine. A meticulous, tireless craftsman, he began writing for Such Things by demoing songs composed of anywhere from two to one-hundred-and-fifty tracks, which he then shared with his bandmates to serve as reference points for their own invented parts.
“Even though it might seem like this singular vision, at the core my creative strategy for the band is one that inherently involves other people. I think the best work I’ll make involves working that way. Ultimately, by involving other people that are really talented and that I admire, we’ll come up with something that will transcend what any individual would be capable of. To me that’s the ultimate creative goal; to have that element of spontaneity and the culmination of multiple minds.”
Adult Mom began as the solo project of Stephanie Knipe in a Purchase College dorm room in 2012. Adult Mom now falls between the playful spectrum of solo project and collaborative band with beloved friends and musicians Olivia Battell, Mike Dvorscak, and Bruce Hamilton. Through reflections and explorations of the personal and hidden, the crux of the writing produced by Knipe is focused on excavation. The dredging out of secrets, putting it all in a pan, waiting for the gold to rise. Honesty and intimacy form as Knipe writes clever pop songs that offer a glimpse into the journey of a gender-weird queer navigating through heartache, trauma and subsequent growth.
With their debut LP, Momentary Lapse of Happily, Adult Mom bravely shined a light on the darkness and allowed the listener to experience and feel those moments along with them. Soft Spots, the project’s sophomore LP, is an exploration into the physical and emotional acts of opening up, the vulnerability that produces love, and then ache. With this record, Knipe proclaims that everybody has soft spots. Spots that get cared for and tended to, that grow and fade, that produce feeling that can linger for years and years. Knipe shares with us their process of learning how to cradle and understand their own softness without finality, a story without an end.
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