' erasing clouds music review: the pines
erasing clouds

The Pines, It's Been a While

by dave heaton

It's Been a While is the name of this collection from masterful, out-of-the-spotlight pop duo The Pines, Pam Berry and Joe Brooker. And it has been a while…since the Pines' last releases four years ago (the two-volume True Love Waits, perhaps their shining moment), and since the music on this CD was recorded. It spans the first four years of this decade, pulling together songs from all of their releases: 7"s, CD EPs, and compilation appearances, plus two more recently recorded, previously unreleased covers (of The Cat's Miaow and Young Marble Giants). And it's a thoroughly splendid showcase of their skills.

Whether playing lazy-day ballads that modernize folk-country traditions or Stephin Merritt-like, Hollywood musical-influenced love ballads, their approach is smart (as erudite as the most cannily crafted novel), stylish (the style being gentle and bright, with an emphasis on tunefulness) and sweet – with moments often surprisingly touching or heartbreaking. Heartbreak and love, dreams and disappointments, confusion and romance (or "Kisses and Fog", as one song title puts it) are set in the context of everyday life, of the practicalities of relationships and the drudgery of work.

Opener "Milk Bar" begins "all day I want to dance / while I'm crunching numbers." The devastating "Marie Claire" catalogs work decisions and their impact on a couple. "MGM" uses tribute to a deceased star as a springboard for romantic daydreams. These 20 songs contain a bounty of breakups, hurt feelings, lonely nights, and reconciliations, and a cornucopia of gorgeous moments, of two singers' voices joining each other to perfectly express a feeling.

Their music is mostly voices, and the voices conjure up a beautiful feeling of isolation. The lyric "must I pine away in the forest of the night / while all of your are lighting up the town" pins down the band's name as a symbol of that same isolation you can hear in the music, an isolation filled with longing and dreaming. Their music often resembles the sound of two introverts singing wishes from a closed-off room inside the darkened house down the street. Are they there, in the kitchen, creating harmonies for the ages, expressing what we all feel?


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