Veteran bands releasing new albums is always a risky proposition. The emotional responses to such albums quickly fork, as we are confronted with wide decision trees: should we take each album as it comes or embed them into the grander, historical context of the band’s discography? Are we obligated to be “harder” on these albums or should our familiarity with the band and their past achievements mollify our criticisms? These, and many more, make listening to such albums a complicated task. This trepidation is even further bolstered if the band’s latest release a wildly successful experiment, a popular divergence from their established norm. It adds a host of new data points to the already intricate equation, questions revolving around momentu, thoroughness and expectations.
This is the full gamut of consideration one must take in mind when approach The Pineapple Thief‘s Your Wilderness. Not only have these guys been around for a substantial amount of time, but their last album, Magnolia, was a wonderfully angry, often bright, departure from their established sound. What then, should one expect when playing this new album? And, should these expectations be dashed, what should be the listener’s reactions? Thankfully, Your Wilderness shouldn’t leave too many of those expectations dashed in the open minded listener. It’s by no means a sequel to Magnolia as its tone returns to the fundamental hues that have always made up The Pineapple Thief’s pallette, namely melancholy, resignation and a silent, tenacious anger that runs underneath it all.
However, Your Wilderness has also not left Magnolia completely in the past. The album definitely contains some of its more brit-rock oriented compositions. “Tear You Up” for example, the third track, opens with drum rolls and evocative guitars which bleed into the bass laden verses which Magnolia brought to the fore. The track leans heavily on that anger component, using the techniques mentioned above coupled with Bruce Soord’s vocals in their more adamant timbres. An excellently powerful and dense outro, before it peters out into the closing moments of the track, seals off this high energy deal and leads beautifully into the more ethereal sounds of “That Shore”, which follows it.
From here on out though, and before it if we’re being honest, the more veteran fans of The Pineapple Thief will be more at ease. “That Shore” is a good example, with its blend of electronic frills overlaid on top of dreamy guitars, echoing drums and the forlorn voice of Soord. It is the exact art-rock formula which first brought The Pineapple Thief to the ears of many, their ability to deny crescendos in favor of a lingering, haunting sensation. However, Your Wilderness isn’t some simple iteration. The trademark style is brought here to new heights of expression and effectiveness with the introduction of new sounds and the expert usage of old ones.
Check out “Fend For Yourself” for an example. It features the always-excellent collaboration between piano and guitar that the band are famous for. However, it also has a brass instrument taking up its middle part, beautifully blending into intensely moving choirs that usher in the end of the track. The following track, “The Final Thing On Your Mind”, clocks in at close to ten minutes and while The Pineapple Thief or no strangers to longer tracks, instills a sort of drawn out contemplation that can’t help but compliment the rest of the album and their style. It includes a plethora of string effects, guitar tones and reoccuring segments to carry the listener across its expansive length. Especially worth notice on this track are the drums which, like all of the rest of their parts on the album, enjoy masterful production and execution.
That probably stems from the fact that none other than Gavin Harrison performed and recorded them. The enlistment of such a prominent name in the annals of progressive rock has done nothing but wonders for The Pineapple Thief. He lends his verve and unique style to Your Wilderness without overshadowing the rest of the music, the true sign of a master drummer. Beautifully though, the band didn’t rely too heavily on his prowess, counting on his talent alone to see them through. Instead, they built a great album which calls back to their formative years while also channeling just enough of their previous album to stay relevant and interesting without seeming like a rehash or a crowd pleaser. Your Wilderness is a great album in the true sense of The Pineapple Thief albums: sad, personal, close to home and magnificently produced.