Green and Gray
On their 7th LP, Green and Gray, Maguire and co. have travelled further down the path they set on A Hairshirt of Purpose to create their most considered and ambitious album to date. An album that has the potential to be the definitive expression of the qualities that have inspired the passionate support of Pile’s ever-expanding fanbase.
The process of writing and recording Green and Gray was distinct from Pile’s previous releases, in part because their years of touring have changed the shape of the band. Longtime drummer Kris Kuss, who has been playing with Maguire since 2009, is still present, but guitarist Matt Becker and bassist Matt Connery left Pile and were replaced by Chappy Hull and Alex Molini, who live in different parts of the country. These changes, combined with Maguire leading what he describes as a “somewhat transient existence” in recent times, meant Pile had to adapt.
This change was mirrored by the album’s recording process, which took place over two weeks in the upstate New York studio of engineer Kevin S. McMahon (Titus Andronicus, Frightened Rabbit, The Walkmen, Swans), Marcata Recordings, double the studio time of most of Pile’s previous albums. This allowed the band time to experiment, and to expand on the more elaborate instrumentation that crept into the margins of previous releases. Overdubs in the form of strings, auxiliary percussion and keyboards are handled with a deft touch, never overwhelming the songs, but slipping in and out of the arrangements to add a textural depth to McMahon’s expert mixes, which Maguire describes as “almost like oil paintings.”
Pile’s songs often function as direct and relatable expressions of Maguire’s interior life - at turns anxious and chaotic, but imbued with a self-effacing humor and moments of bracing clarity. On Green and Gray the songwriting is no less densely packed with ideas, both musical and lyrical, and Pile don’t pull back from either of the extremes that have defined their sound, but spend more time between the two poles. The effect is to give the album the feel of a contiguous whole, which combined with it’s almost orchestral sonic palette, serves to heighten its emotional resonance.
From the album’s opening lyric (“no longer burdened by youth“), the album is preoccupied with mortality, and the anxieties, loss and self-discovery inherent to the passage of time. Perhaps as a result, Green And Gray feels like a reflection on Pile’s career, collecting the ideas that have made up the last 10 plus years of Maguire’s output and synthesizing them into a new whole constructed with the benefit of his growing understanding of who he is and what he is capable of.
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