Listening to A Hairshirt of Purpose without any context makes it both easy and difficult to talk about Pile. The Boston four piece have been releasing music for a decade and excursions into their catalogue of material show a clear evolution. Their rabid fans are integral to their live shows in a way.
But here’s what makes A Hairshirt of Purpose easy to talk about. Every song serves a clear purpose in the narrative of the album. These are songs that celebrate isolation, revel in the out of place, and observe a misaligned world with an air of calm reflection. “It was never supposed to happen to worms like you,” Rick Maguire concludes on the opening track, perhaps alluding to the current politics, perhaps not.
Pile unleash themselves with flashy musical arrangements that resolve with gravitas with lyrics to match. “So play in traffic / have a kid,” Maguire quips on ‘Leaning On A Wheel’ as the album sprints towards ‘Texas,’ the thirteen-track record’s lead single.
“Texas” gives us reason to admire Ben Brodin of The Record Company’s production on the record. Yelps and screams sit beautifully in the mix in a way that’s exciting but not overdone. One of the shorter tracks on the album at 2:12, ‘Texas’ itself isn’t overdone either. It’s an exciting, driving tune that highlights one thing Pile is very good at – keeping things interesting.
On ‘Hairshirt,’ we get a taste of the Pile fans are most familiar with. On a record that speaks volumes about the band’s continued progression, this track felt the weakest to me, but it doesn’t detract from the work as a whole. It just doesn’t add much to it.
As A Hairshirt of Purpose resolves, we’re left with five more tracks that are all marked by Pile’s signature build and release and by the time we get to the pounding eighth notes that close out ‘Fingers,’ our narrative is finished, our palms are sweating and our arms are tired from all the air drums