Pine Barons | photo by Georgia Smith | courtesy of the artist
Pine Barons’ Mirage On The Meadow balances moody psychedelia and exuberant rock
Certain music can only be properly listened to at night. Frank Ocean’sBlonde comes to mind. Portishead’s music does, too, and the xx’s earlier records. I’m not entirely sure what it is –these works don’t have much in common, musically or thematically — but they can only be truly appreciated after the sun goes down. After dark, it seems, all of our secret desires and intimate urges come out to play, unhindered by the blight of the light.
Philly-based indie rock band Pine Barons‘ latest record, Mirage On The Meadow, lives in that space, too. While this album, led by singer-guitarist and songwriter Keith Abrams, might be a bit more upbeat than the aforementioned artists’ works, it has a certain vibe that conveys nighttime mischief and emotional longing, with a heavy dose of misanthropy. The first lines of the album, from opener “Fearest the Night,” encapsulate this bleak perspective: “testing a lesson I’ll never learn / blind by the wall while my head steers a hearse.” The band’s description of their music as “graveyard” indie rock couldn’t be more apt. Not to say it’s upsetting or overly moody; it just carries a feeling that can only be understood while looking at the stars.
Mirage On The Meadow is a love letter to ’90’s and 2000’s indie rock, an amalgamation of the Arctic Monkeys‘ smoky and sensual themes, The Killers’ theatrical instrumentation and vocals, and the Flaming Lips’ swirling psychedelia. There’s some nods to Sigur Rós and Tame Impala, too, with soaring guitar tones set against poppy, trippy synth lines.
In spite of (or perhaps because of) these strikingly clear influences, Mirage On The Meadow belongs wholly to Pine Barons, who’ve forged a distinct identity. This is mostly thanks to Abrams’ unique arrangements. “Keeping Off the Road” features an absolutely devastating outro, where Abrams screams “We were all dead / We were lying in bed,” over a massive wall of sound that creeps up behind you and smacks you in the face. It’s startling and effective; before that point, the song builds slowly, with pounding drums that prime your adrenal glands for the pure catharsis that comes at the end.
Even the poppier cuts still have a distinctive sound; “Colette” features a mournful guitar countermelody set against the New Wave beats, while the instrumental bridge on “Clique Bait” is as dense and thick as any Beach House song. Regardless of whether the song is upbeat or not, Abrams’ melodies and powerful vocals are shamelessly over-the-top, at times gleeful and freewheeling, at times dreary and heart-wrenching. If you don’t feel something by the end of “Meadowsong” (one of the many highlights here), then you’re either dead or a liar. “When I’m found / I’ll be dressed up in / Stark naked fashion,” Abrams sings over roiling guitars.
This is a record that’s spattered in tie-dye, glow-in-the-dark paint. It’s vivid and provocative, yet still has moments of subtle beauty to underscore the massive hooks and tidal waves of sound. Pine Barons’ Mirage On The Meadow is a phenomenal sophomore effort from a band who has only improved over time, and one of the best rock albums to come out of Philly this year.
Listen to Pine Barons’ Mirage On The Meadowhere.