Pile's new LP, A Hairshirt of Purpose, has a warmth to it that sets it apart from 2015's, You're Better Than This. Songs move slower, develop at their own pace, and leave space for Rick Maguire's incisive self-reflections and ruminations. His trademark songwriting style is still impossible to miss, however. His vocals slide off of, onto and around their expected resolutions; he stretches melodic phrases across the band's dexterous grooves against all expectation and jumps from a drawl to a falsetto without warning.
Although there are the expected ferocious bangers to be found in "Hissing For Peace" or "Texas," the meat of this record is its gorgeous, winding ballads. They play with carefully shifting dynamics, as on "Rope's Length," moving through dramatic narrative structures that are underscored by the churning instrumentation. The last quarter of the album even harkens back to the twangy sensibility of their Jerk Routine days.
Maguire's lyrics are slotted into the music counter-intuitively, but not haphazardly. He describes emotional alternate realities that feel personal no matter how bizarre their details get. "Milkshake" illustrates a succession of last thoughts as their thinker lays sprawled out on the sidewalk with gracious subtlety: "It never crosses your mind to close your eyes."
The poised but destructive closer "Fingers" proves to be a fitting culmination for a record that spans Pile's rich repertoire of sounds and styles. The band walk the borders between beauty, fury and precision with a cool confidence that demonstrates the newfound patience discernible in their songwriting. A Hairshirt of Purpose is a remarkable, disorienting and rewarding listen that captures a band in their mature, creative prime. (Exploding in Sound)