Signals Midwest - PIN (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Signals Midwest

PIN (2019)


Signals Midwest have been one of my favourite bands in the indie/emo genre for quite some time. 2016's At This Age feels like a decade ago but it's one of the records that's really stuck with me, right there alongside contemporaries like Prawn and Annabel with a Midwestern burn that simply makes you feel like wandering the country. Ironically, their new LP (I mean, if you want to call it that at six songs), directly addresses the concept of location, as indicated by the album title Pin, and while it's not Signals' most hard-hitting album yet, it's still catchy as hell and without a doubt, lyrically it's their best to date.

I spoke to Max Stern on the album a while back and was intrigued by the direction the band adopted. I thought they'd go wild and do something different as the last record felt like the pinnacle of their older style, but this album pretty much sounds like B-sides to At This Age; which isn't a bad thing at all as a sibling album to that record is definitely something fans would enjoy. Off the bat, Stern drops a piano-driven balled in the title track, charming, slow and as sentimental as ever. It's something he says he'd like to do more of and which he hopes his bandmates let him explore in the future. But this doesn't really shift the band's tone that much because they quickly go backwards to their sounds of old. Again, it's not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.

"Sanctuary City" feels like it's off the last record and speaks to the guys' mindsets as they grow older, move apart, meshing experiences from Philly to Ohio, while still keeping the spine of what makes the band and their loyal fanbase tick. Of course, Stern has indicated they'll be doing some more alt. rock and punk-ier jams in the future, but with jobs, families, maturity etc. hitting them all the same time, the recording process was much tighter so they stuck to a winning formula when they got together for this. What makes these tracks tick too is the theme draped right through -- tying back to older records like Where I Might Land and Latitudes and Longitudes.

Stern's been obsessed with 'position' and these songs frame that physically (as they're no longer living in one city), but it also places it into context mentally. In fact, the album title, lyrics and musical bit and pieces were all pulled from ideas Stern and Co. had for previous songs, but finally decided this was the time to use them. And when you listen to them going on about gentrification and moving somewhere seeking haven, you can tell just how much the idea of roaming and touring impacts on them and the experiences they're relating.

"Can't Help But Wonder" is another of the band's signature mid-tempo, punchy, indie jams which harkens back to their earlier material, setting up the thick crunchy baseline, melody and slow darkness to "I Think We Can Stay Here" -- which ironically feels like it's Stern waxing on about the place he's finally found to call home, internally as well. And while it helps end an album that's short and sweet, you can't help but want more songs to hear them expound on this very notion of being settled and not as restless as when the fire of youth burnt bright. Well, come Fest, hopefully I'll catch them and see how these songs mix in to their set lists, and as usual, into the pit that'll undoubtedly be singing along and hanging on every word.