Boston's Pile grew from the anxiety-ridden solo project of bandleader Rick Maguire into a finely tuned group who worked in the dark netherworld between post-hardcore and abstract indie rock. The band developed an exceptionally devoted following through their tireless touring and non-stop album release schedule, and 2019's Green and Gray is Pile's seventh full-length album since their inception just over a decade earlier. The group's commitment to constant evolution is audible throughout Green and Gray in its tightly wound songs that meld the ferocity of the band's live show with a densely layered production approach. Where 2017's A Hairshirt of Purpose was relatively subdued (by Pile's wiry standards, at least), Green and Gray holds tension and angst in even its slow-moving passages. The band offsets crawling tracks like "Hiding Places" and the simmering opener "Firewood" with two-minute punk blasts like "The Soft Hands of Stephen Miller" and the intricate technical workout "A Bug on Its Back." While Pile are no strangers to complex arrangements, they use layers of understated strings and synth pads to underscore Maguire's nervy lyrics. This is especially effective on tracks like the dirgey "Hair," where the strings are so subtly mixed they're hard to hear at first. As the song builds, so does the web of dizzy synths and string parts. Themes of age and the passage of time crop up throughout Green and Gray, and this is reflected in the album's sound. Pile hold on to all the anxiety and fury of youth here, but present their dissonant squalls with a mature, metered patience that just adds to the slow-boiling listening experience.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas