Thursday, December 7, 2006

In The Pines

Posted on Thu, Dec 7, 2006 at 4:00 AM

In The Pines
Label: Second Nature
Length: LP
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: In The Pines
Like a moonlit cabin that hides unspoken horrors behind its charming facade, In the Pines' debut disc reflects rural life at its most picturesque-yet-simultaneously-unsettling. The sextet takes no shortcuts in establishing this atmosphere, which means none of its five vocalists affect twangs. Arrhythmic hand-clap percussion conjures images of a moonshine-addled front-porch choir, while banjo solos slice through mild acoustic melodies like barbed wire. Lead singer Brad Hodgson exudes earnestness, but he tempers that vulnerability with old-country gravity. When he pleads, 'Don't leave me,â?� he's addressing a dying lover rather than a wayward one, and the mournful instrumental coda that follows serves as the reaper's reply. Another subject dies when her dress catches on fire ' the string section (viola, violin) slow-burns while layered voices eulogize without urgency. In the Pines moves at an unhurried pace befitting its bucolic aesthetic, and several songs might seem overlong during an initial impatient listen. The band uses that space to earn its climaxes, during which the usually muted drums detonate and the strings swell symphonically. In the Pines' beleaguered protagonists deserve catharsis, but given the group's bleak leanings, it seems likely that these surges represent bittersweet memory montages rather than fresh hope.

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