Pile’s really good at music

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“A Hairshirt of Purpose”, was Pile’s second studio album that was released in 2017 (Photo by Brayden Reese)

Brayden Reese, Staff Writer

Pile, Pile, Pile! At times soft and melodic, and other times loud and filled with bellowing intensity. Pile’s 2017 album A Hairshirt of Purpose shows maturity, depth, and a guy who’s really good at making songs.

The opening track Worms makes you think that the album will be slow and sad, beginning with a soft guitar track layered over soothing vocals. This is immediately negated with the song Hissing for Peace which sounds more like a punk track than anything. The album continues to rotate through these two sounds; at times heavy and hardcore but with a distinct focus on melody. 

Pile has a unique and distinctive sound. The band was originally a solo project led by lead singer and guitarist, Rick Maguire. He uses his scarily long fingers to reach chords and riffs that most wouldn’t even think of. Maguire’s vision shines throughout all of Pile’s albums, and his style contributes to a mix of influences ranging from Indie and alternative style acts, like Elliott Smith and Radiohead, to more folk-based artists like John Fahey and Bob Dylan. 

Elements of all of these shine through, as you pick out elements of Indie and alternative rock, combined with folk style fingerpicking and chord changes. Even with all of these influences, you are still unable to call him a copycat. Pile is completely unique, and it’s hard to pin them down to one single genre.

Another highlight of not just this album, but all of Pile’s music is Maguire’s songwriting. It’s probably an acquired taste, combining surreal and sometimes nonsensical elements. Even despite the cryptic nature, you can still pick out the different subjects that are affecting his life. Sexual struggles, overwork, and mental illness are prevalent themes throughout not just Hairshirt, but many of Pile’s other albums. Along with distinct humor and personality, you can see a lot of the inner workings of Maguire’s mind and the cryptic way he sometimes sees life. 

Songs like Fingers use anxiety-inducing squealing guitars, combined with mysterious lyrics talking about meat sponges and rich people eating food. Take that in contrast with I Don’t Want to Do This Anymore, which is a largely instrumental and minimalist piano track. It demonstrates diversity, as each song is a completely distinctive experience that differs from each of the tracks before it. 

While later Pile releases include more straightforward and less scary lyrics, they still shine with that signature Maguire sound. Almost four years on A Hairshirt of Purpose is still the perfect example of a Pile album, utilizing creativity and an against-the norm-style. It shows you what makes them one of the most creative and prevalent underground bands working today.

 4/5 Paws!