The Pines - It's Been A While

matcd043  /  January 2007
The Pines - It's Been A While
cd   $10.00

digital   $8.00

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The Pines - It's Been A While

matcd043  /  January 2007

Superb 20-track collection of singles, compilation appearances, and unreleased tracks from London pop duo The Pines - a collaboration of legendary American songstress Pam Berry and amiable English gent Joe Brooker featuring strong songwriting, intricate guitars, and exquisite harmonies. Joe is a prolific songwriter and one-half of English pop duo The Foxgloves, while Pam’s distinguished resume includes association with notable indie bands of the last decade including Belmondo, Black Tambourine, Bright Coloured Lights, The Castaway Stones, Glo Worm, The Seashell Sea, The Shapiros, The Snowdrops, and Veronica Lake, plus guest spots on recordings by The Clientele, Jasmine Minks, The Lucksmiths, The Relict, and The Saturday People. Beginning in 2000, The Pines released a series of limited edition singles for esteemed record labels Annika (Spain), Becalmed (UK), Foxyboy (USA), Gifted (Australia), Long Lost Cousin (UK), and Matinée (USA) and contributed compilation tracks to collections by Chickfactor (USA), Papercuts (UK), and Red Square (USA). In addition to highlights from these releases, ‘It’s Been A While’ includes three songs from an extremely rare self-released Christmas CD and unreleased covers of songs by Young Marble Giants and The Cat’s Miaow. A truly essential release for your 2007 shopping list!

  1. Milk Bar
  2. A Hundred Doors
  3. Forget-Me-Nots
  4. Chalet
  5. A Rainy Day
  6. MGM
  7. Please Don't Get Married (Without Asking Me)
  8. Static
  9. Fields In Spain
  10. Marie Claire
  11. Baby, You'll Do
  12. Aurora
  13. Some Slow Afternoon
  14. Brand-New-Life
  15. Familiar
  16. Seven Clubs
  17. Miracles
  18. High Street
  19. I See Stars
  20. Kisses & Fog


Pam Berry is a legend. For proof, consult the latest Shins album, on which James Mercer and Co. named a song after her. Berry was a member of Washington, D.C. cult bands Black Tambourine and Glo Worm, and she’s guested on albums by the Clientele, Jasmine Minks and the Lucksmiths. After relocating to London in 1998, she met Joe Brooker (Foxgloves) and eventually formed the Pines. The band’s mix of Brit-folk spook and indie-pop simplicity lasted until 2004 and is surveyed on It’s Been A While, a 20-song collection of singles, compilation appearances and unreleased tracks. Berry’s voice emerges from a fog of reverb, echoing Felt and Mazzy Star. The best songs feature Berry front and center; her sugared plaint on “A Rainy Day” is bolstered only by a spare bass line and plunking acoustic guitar. Even electrified tunes such as the gently rocking “Brand New Life” inhabit a glum, misty space in love with Sandy Denny.   --Magnet Magazine
smart chickfactor readers surely know the name pam berry since she is the cofounding editor of this pop zine, but more importantly she is an angel-voiced legend in the world of indie. her london-based folk duo the pines that she plays in with the purple-jumper-sporting lloyd cole enthusiast/james joyce lecturer joe brooker has just released a collection of material that it would be very hard to collect in their original format. available from cali indie label matinee, it's been a while is a joy to hear, so get one already!   --Chickfactor
"Why do you stick to me?" questions The Pines' Pam Berry on It's Been A While, a collection of songs from the iconic pondcrossing somberpop romancers. Berry is one of the most recognizable voices in American indiepop, with a dulcet croon and a perfect sense of timing and timbre, and we've stuck with her since her days in the fetishized Black Tambourine though her work with The Pines, with good reason. Though songs like "Marie Claire," "Please Don't Get Married" and "Familiar" catch Berry and Pines-mate Joe Brooker in quite whimsical moods, the mostly drumless record rarely reaches past dreamy blues or melancholy greens, giving it a folksy pop quality that makes it enjoyable mostly in the rain, or over a post-break-up scotch. It's hard to complain when you like every single song on the record, but for reasons unknown, It's Been A While is not a completist artifact. It's a collection of compilation tracks, single and EP cuts and a couple unreleased covers (of which the Young Marble Giants cover is an absolute gem), which begs the question, when will the next collection come out so we can fill in the holes. It may have been better to just package it all together. A must-have record this early in the year when so much crap is coming out, though, is more than welcome.   --Diskant
It’s Been A While is a collection of singles and obscurities from the Pines, who constitute Pam Berry and Joe Brooker. Pam has the voice of a songbird, as becomes immediately evident on lead track Milk Bar, while some delicate folk style plucking from Joe provides a wistful backing. Alternately sung verses on A Hundred Doors gives a lovely touch to a rather sad song that sounds if it was recorded tucked away in a basement. Forget Me Nots is like some trad folk tune given a Simon & Garfunkel twist, a tinge of echo on the vocals. Chalet again shows how delightful the Pines tunes are, given air to breathe and plenty of space. The bare minimum of music and vocals are used, neither wanting to intrude on the other, its just beautiful. MGM is another lovely winsome duet, another song that sounds beamed in from another more innocent age in the days before amps went up to 11. Please Don’t Get Married is slow skiffle, or heart rending bluegrass, pick your new genre. Static drifts through the air, like a beautiful snowflake in the winter sun. Marie Claire is a good example of how their voices can blend together, trading parts of the song, then harmonising rather Belle & Sebastian like. Aurora, a cover of a The Cat's Miaow song, sounds like an elegy to something, who knows what, but its incredibly wistful. Joe takes the lead on Some Slow Afternoon and makes for a blissful Lilac Time sounding tune. Brand New Life, a Young Marble Giants tune, is a wispy lite thing that is more atmosphere than anything, but works really well. Seven Clubs finds them doing the trad folk thing beautifully again while High Street is a maudlin, harmonica soaked little thing. I See Stars sets Pam’s warbling voice against some gorgeous picking, you can imagine this being sung on a harbour wall in the Mediterranean. A delightful collection.   --Russell’s Reviews
The Incredibly Shrinking Cover Art: It’s a digital music era phenomena frequently dissected in print and cyberspace under clever banners such as “Run For Cover!” Pundits grind that there was a time when album cover art contextualized the very music it packaged. Seeing Orleans’ Waking and Dreaming reduced to media player proportions is good and righteous, but having to squint to savor the postmodern appropriation of a Peter Saville or the cartoonish savagery of a Derek Riggs…well, that’s when 10K-jpeg miniaturization is deemed unacceptable. So am I antiquated for feeling compelled to agree? Let’s face it: Stacks of tiny, yellow folder icons can’t compete with reveling in the “gloriously parasitic elements of graphic design,” to quote Saville. Or, on a more visceral gnarly level, blanching at a coffin-bursting Eddie claw at the jugular of a gravedigger. The cover art for the Pines’ latest release, the pop-folk compilation It’s Been a While, is in line with the stock-photography nostalgia of Matinée Recordings’ countless singles: a cold-hued portrait of a holiday lodge. And when American Pam Berry’s soaring, alpine vocals open “Milk Bar,” the album cover quickly transforms from knife blue / blinding white ornament to narrative backdrop: lodge-goers stopped in their tracks, eyes cast towards the snowy scalp of a nearby peak, Berry’s voice echoing down with frolic or crushing pang—potent imagery certainly lost if this was Lilliputian-sized artwork. In “Chalet,” our mountain siren grapples with craggy solitude (“Read the old newspapers from last year / I think I’ll go outside today / And throw them on a fire / To leave the world a signal that I’m here”), and her soul’s matter and merit. Through it all, Berry is granite-like in strength, her voice concealing the heartache swelling inside. Much of the track’s pathos comes from the notable absence of the other half of the Pines: English vocalist / guitarist Joe Brooker, who plays the romantic foil on It’s Been a While to perfection. When Berry sings, “Must I find a way / In the forests of the night / While all of you are lighting up the town?,” one imagines her staring down wistfully from her perch at the golden-squared taproom that swallowed her wassailing love. Berry’s isolated vocals also twinkle on the heavy-hearted “Static” and the cover of the Cat’s Miaow’s “Aurora,” but equally appealing are the lighthearted duets with Brooker. Their voices are diametric opposites—hers captivating, transcendent; his pure, earthy in tone. Together, they occupy a realm where doves and dirt willfully bed. On tracks such as “Forget-Me-Nots,” their harmonies give the song an ephemeral quality—a lovers’ trail of side-by-side, footprints disappearing under a blanket of fresh snow. When not crooning, Brooker drives the album with his acoustic playing, blending drowsy chords with sharp, finger-picked melodies. And his electric guitar, harmonica, and accordion parts are sparse, leaving an intimacy reminiscent of labelmates Lovejoy or contemporaries Hobotalk. Couplets such as, “Forget you ever saw me / And go back to baking your bread,” also reveal the duo’s penchant for domestic, bedsit pop. The self-absorption is never dull, however, thanks to all the spit and spark in the relationship. In “MGM,” Berry sings, “Each time we argue I notice your tongue getting sharper,” which prompts Brooker to respond with a pinking pinch of his own: “I always said that you put me in mind of a movie star / I never said which one.” The dishy barbs continue on “Marie Claire,” where the pair tiff over past divergences in their relationship (a snotty Brooker: “Maybe you never should have taken that job at the BBC / I always called it a company / You insisted it was a corporation”), and on the Byrds-influenced “Please Don’t Get Married (Without Asking Me),” devilishly equating matrimony with madness. Brooker and Berry have long been contributors in the indie-pop world—he with the English pop band the Foxgloves; she with acts such as Black Tambourine, as well as her founding role with Chickfactor—but neither has recorded anything as eternally inviting as the singles, compilation appearances, and unreleased tracks assembled here on It’s Been a While.   --Stylus Magazine
There are those who would slot The Pines into a tweepop slot too, but I’m not one of them. For me, The Pines rise above all attempts to categorise and as a result they produce what is simply sublime and classy music. And that’s sublime and classy in the way of, say, Blossom Dearie, Anita O’Day or the Boswell Sisters. It’s got a lot to do with Pam Berry’s voice of course, which as any self-respecting indie-hipster will tell you is legendary. But it’s also as much to do with the way Joe Brooker’s vocal partners Berry’s, is to do with his exquisitely restrained guitar work and the shared aesthetic that the two of them have. The Pines are the sound of being in love with a time before the spectre of Rock emerged to soil the Pop dream; are a glorious glance back at a 1950s daydream lived through old advertisements and thrift store clothes. The twenty track It’s Been A While set on Matinée collects together some of their finest moments recorded between early 2000 and 2004. Many of these cuts were released on limited edition releases on small but perfectly formed independents, with two, including a perfect cover of a Young Marble Giants gem, being previously unreleased. Essential listening, and no mistake.   --Tangents
The Pines are the London-based duo of Joe Brooker and Pam Berry. Brooker’s probably best known for his role as one half of the Foxgloves, and Berry’s best known for having worked with every indie pop group that ever was. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but she did work with a lot of bands (Black Tambourine, the Snowdrops, and the Clientele among them). Anyway, It's Been a While gathers up twenty of the Pines' singles, unreleased tracks, rare Christmas songs, and other doodads into one big bundle of dreamy, melancholy goodness. It's an impressive collection, especially as far as odds-and-sods releases go, simply because it covers so much ground. More than that, it turns out that a disc like this is necessary. The Pines have released a heck of a lot of their work on EP's, compilation discs, demos and whatnot, so It's Been a While provides nice entry point for newcomers, latecomers, and those who simply weren't in the right place at the right time. Granted, this is a pretty large collection, and even the most hardcore of twee fans might find the Pines' melancholy sweetness a little overpowering after about twelve tracks. And there are a few so-so songs; "Chalet," a Christmas song, and "Static" feel a somewhat directionless and underdone. But they're the minority, and it turns out that the Pines tucked a lot of great songs into their EP's. "MGM", a hesitant, wistful send-up to hat-wearing Hollywood glamour girl Ruth Hussey, "Rainy Day" and "Forget Me Nots," both of which sound like they could have been recorded forty years prior to this release, and the opening track, "Milk Bar," all find the Pines at their jangly and bittersweet best. Established fans and newcomers alike will not be disappointed with what they discover here.   --All Music Guide
The Pines, they being American singer Pam Berry (a veteran of the US indie scene) and English guitarist Joe Brooker (of The Foxgloves), make some of the most delicate twee-folk you’ll find. Their music, though, transcends lo-fidelity, as certainly there is a perfectionism in the instrumentation, as well as a hymnal quality to their sound that would better suited to stone-built church-halls than dingy basement bars. The breathiness of the vocal harmony suggests that their inspiration comes not only from the 60s folk scene but also the madrigals of the 16th century. The Pines have a kind of Beat Happening! ethic but their music is made crystalline, with a haunted echo, and is far from ramshackle. If anything, it rolls in off a cloud. The dryness and ingenuity of their lyrics, such as “I said you reminded me of a movie star/I never said which one” is playful stood alone, but combined with such crafted instrumentation, makes the side-stepping of expectation utterly captivating. Furthermore, ‘Marie Claire’ remains one of the most brilliantly written, and performed, lyrical two-handers I’ve ever heard.   --Vanity Project