Evan Stephens Hall, the songwriter and lead vocalist for the Montclair, New Jersey band, Pinegrove, has a few unusual songwriting idiosyncrasies. Hall likes to sing about geometry and literature, using those subjects as a way to talk about interpersonal connections.
Sometimes Hall even challenges his band’s Twitter followers to find the allusions to Virginia Woolf and the author George Saunders in their songs. Those who find a reference that Hall confirms get a merch prize.
In the band’s new single, “Intrepid,” Hall explores the interpersonal in his classic way. “Intrepid” unravels slowly, but surely; its guitar riffs unspool and grow larger with every verse. As he sings, “Take a rectangle, untangle your head / Intrepid,” the song builds and then fades in hesitation. But soon the guitars and Hall’s voice swell together as the song crescendos.
Hall’s voice soars, almost yelling: “Up in the early morning for no reason again / Re-listening to your message and I held it in my head.” For the singer, who admittedly likes “tiny art,” this song feels grand and expansive, even while clocking in at 3:31.
The band takes as much inspiration from alt-country group Wilco as it does from Green Day, and this especially shows in “Intrepid.” Hall is comfortable writing from an emo standpoint, but his lyrics never feel overbaked or too heavy. He alludes to depression but doesn’t let that overrule the rest of the song. His songs have the same tinge of humor and wit as Wilco’s.
“Well the way I spent my winter, I wonder / How could we commit,” he sings, voice somehow both cold and expansive.
Pinegrove is by no means exploring new territory in “Intrepid,” and that’s okay. The song feels like one of the longer, sadder songs of the band’s 2016 debut album, “Cardinal.” For a band with such a fervent and passionate fanbase, sometimes very little change is better than any. Especially when these fans know the lyrics so well.
But according to the dictionary, the word “Intrepid” means fearless and adventurous. And if any band knows how to make adventurous music while still being truthful to all the anxieties of something new, it’s Pinegrove. As Hall sings, everything but the road stretching in front of you fades.