You can go looking for Amperland, NY on a map, but you may never find it. More idea than physical place, though it is that too, Amperland, NY recalls something quaint and simple as the album takes a look at “new versions of ‘old favorites.’” Over the 21 tracks, Pinegrove provides a substantial amount of material to immerse oneself into a sonic world in their newest album. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a world that this reviewer wanted to spend much time in.
One enjoyable aspect about Amperland, NY is that it feels comfortable and safe. But, the album struggles to do more than that. Like a long drive through the Midwest, the tracks are slow and give a listener time to get acquainted with and think about them. Through a listen there is a familiarity to the rustic sound on the album. Reminiscent at times of the alternative tracks of the mid- to late-90s like Counting Crows or Blues Traveler, the songs of Amperland, NY are oftentimes introspective, thoughtful, and with a twang.
However, safe, familiar, and comfortable is not always enough to make something good. It is from the unknown and uncomfortable that we learn and grow and oftentimes enjoy the most. The couch might be the most familiar and comfortable space in a room. But, if we sit on the couch for too long, even it may become unsatisfying and upsetting. Like a drive through endless, flat farmland, the tracks grow into a kind of monotony. There is little change or new spins on old styles in the tracks to make them stand out. Instead, there is only comfort and stagnation in the album.
The lengthy tracklist doesn’t help this problem. Originally a soundtrack for a movie, Amberland, NY’s runs for over an hour with 21 songs. It starts light enough but soon settles into a plodding pace. The rustic, melancholy seems to grow heavier as the album continues. The sensation is similar to driving through never ending fields of corn. It’s not bad, but the lack of change in the scenery does eventually become wearisome. Although the musical scenery may be new, it’s hard to tell since it seems so familiar to what you’ve already heard.
The vocal twang and instruments on the give it a distinct sense of rustic nostalgia. And though the call of simpler times and places is alluring, it doesn’t always feel satisfying. Sometimes, nostalgia can give a product a timeless quality. Other times, it leads to a product feeling dated even at release. Amperland, NY doesn’t do anything new and feels too specific to a particular time. As a soundtrack, this album would provide an anchor to images. But, as a standalone album, Amperland, NY fits too snugly into a past soundscape and fails to provide sense of going beyond what’s already been heard. The comfort is refreshing but doesn’t make any of it sound new and fresh. Instead, Pinegrove manages to produce an album that already feels dated and already been done.