With so many channels clamoring for our limited attention now, the test of an album’s worth is not its novelty or its singles, but its ability to keep a listener engaged. Hit songs and clever videos are all well and good, but a record that keeps you locked in from beginning to end is the commodity we all clamor for. “Cardinal,” the sophomore set from Montclair, N.J.’s Pinegrove (and its debut on Boston label Run for Cover), is exactly that kind of album. Simple and understated, Pinegrove grafts unassuming banjo and pedal-steel textures to classic slacker indie rock, making each moment as engaging as the next. Melodies swerve, dynamics ebb and flow, creating a sound that harks back to pre-major label efforts from Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, and East Coast contemporaries like Providence’s Small Factory. Songs like “Cadmium” and “New Friends” have a soulful shuffle that sets the group apart, and keeps the listener rapt from opening chords to final fade.
SEAN L. MALONEY
ESSENTIAL “Then Again”
Pinegrove performs at Royale Boston April 21.Sean L. Maloney can be reached at email@example.com.