The sum is larger than its parts. This sentence is often used to describe progressive albums or epics that operate on the album level, setting a concept or a story, interweaving different tracks together via leitmotifs or common themes. This isn’t the case with the new The Pineapple Thief album, Magnolia. On first listens, the album appears to be very song oriented: like the rock from which it draws, each song stands by itself. However, repeated listens will cause something extraordinary to happen. Like its name sake, the album will unfold its petals and a certain sum that is indeed larger will emerge.
How is this accomplished? First of all, one can point to a certain color or texture on this album and that is blue. Beautifully mirrored in the album cover, this often-cited color really captures something about this album: a certain melancholy to be certain but also a sense of wildness and opening horizons. Tracks like ‘Alone at Sea’ and ‘Breathe’ exemplify this point, with their depressed brit-rock vibes on one hand and wild bursts of furious prog-riffing on the other. In general, this can be ascertained as a basic tenet of this album: bands like Oasis (in their interesting early days) or Placebo can be clearly heard through out it but always balanced by more energetic, metallic sounds.
The comparison to Porcupine Tree, especially the In Absentia/Fear of a Blank Planet era, is impossible to avoid. However, we would do well to dwell on it only momentarily and return to the unique otherness that surrounds this album. After the first four tracks, finding ourselves at ‘Season’s Past’, we would expect a further exploration of this pop-rock sound that characterized the Porcupine albums we listed. However, Magnolia does something quiet different than previous Pineapple albums: unlike 137 for example, it allows quiet parts to seep into the album much earlier instead of waiting for the closing passages to slow down the tempo.
Tracks like ‘A Loneliness’ or ‘From Me’ are downright post-rock. Their dreamy sounds never pick up tempo, like we heard on the quiet tracks of 137 or Tightly Wound, and so grant that blue quality to the album that we mentioned before, a soothing and melancholy atmosphere. The wildness, that spark of adventure echoed by the clear sky on the album cover, are to be found in explosive intermezzos in the form of tracks like ‘Sense of Fear’, the most frantic of tracks on the release, or the epic ‘The One You Left Behind’, with its soaring ending. This one-two punch combo is simply endearing and viewing these tracks as separate, even if no common themes exist, would simply be a shame that would rob the album of much of its charm.
And so we end up with ‘Bond’. The last track on this album is without a doubt also the best. The Pineapple Thief are known for their haunting guitar melodies and this track opens with one of their catchiest. The drums beat out a skeletal march and above all soar the string instruments this band utilizes so well. Tying it all off are the amazing vocals, here at their most evocative. This track is a perfect closer for Magnolia: it harbors those same themes we referenced when we started off: a certain sadness mingles with power and hope to create a rock album that is brightly beautiful. The light of each track slowly mingles as you listen again and again, ending up with a brilliant tapestry that is the complete thing.
The Pineapple Thief’s Magnolia gets…