Pile: “A Hairshirt of Purpose” Album Review

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Written By: Ethan Griggs

My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com

Boston has been pretty loud since alternative rockers Pile came on the scene in 2007. Originally a solo project, its creator Rick Maguire released two albums under the name before joining up with a full band in 2010 to release their regional breakthrough, Magic Isn’t Real. Since then the band has gained national notoriety as indie rockers that know how to write great songs while keeping just the right amount of freshness in the mix. Their brand new album A Hairshirt of Purpose, for the Exploding in Sound label, competes with the newest releases from Parquet Courts and others of the like.

The album’s first two songs present a certain kind of uncertainness in their opening rhythms; a frolicking, fretful snare rim roll opens both “Worms” and “Hissing for Peace”, the former sounding like an old Modest Mouse tune and the later sounds more alike to the new album by Priests, or an outtake from an Interpol album. Singer and guitarist Maguire is both reserved and fiercely primal on the tracks, respectively. From there, the mood is mellowed with the spiraling guitar arpeggios of the soothing “Rope’s Length”, even if its intro in a 5/4 meter is a bit disorienting. The band, including the lead guitar of Matt Becker, the bass of Matt Connery, and the drumming of Kris Kuss, is in top shape on this track and throughout the album.

Maguire’s lyrics are striking and mature this go around. On the short and sweet ballad “No Bone”, the singer laments, “Now our place is all safe for war/We can all pick fights and stay indoors/So there must be nothing here to tend to/I don’t agree or care to argue.” It’s the sentiment of a young man who isn’t quite through with the apathy of his teenage years, and with new conflict on the horizon of adulthood. There are also many different types of songs on the album, like the rusty folk of “Milkshake” and Leaning on a Wheel which are contrasted with loud post punk numbers like the aforementioned “Hissing for Peace” and the album’s lead single “Texas”.

With A Hairshirt of Purpose, Pile further extend the duality of their sound, and the result is a record that sounds great both to friends of the post punk genre and to those who are more familiar with a calm, organic sound. Hairshirt very well may go down as one of the year’s best rock albums – because that’s what it is; just a solid and electrifying record like the way they used to make ‘em.