PIN, the fifth album from Cleveland, Ohio’s Signals Midwest, is an album of change. Not just change for the band itself—though there was plenty of that; it’s their first recording with new bassist Ryan Williamson, and the first one that finds the band split between three different cities (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and their origin city of Cleveland)—but an album that interrogates the nature of change. The kind of change that makes you question your place in the world: the feeling you get walking down the same blocks you’ve known your whole life and not recognizing anything; the existential dread of an uncertain future, the daily fear and anxiety that comes with trying to live in this country, in this time.
Eleven years in, Signals Midwest is a band grateful to exist, and the constant change in their lives and the world at large is not lost on them. “Everything we do is meticulously planned, very far in advance, and is just for us at this point,” says vocalist/guitarist Max Stern. “Every practice takes so much organization and travel. So we don't do it as much anymore, but when we are able to make it happen, it feels more meaningful.” And so with PIN , which was recorded in November of 2018 at Type One Studios in Chicago, Illinois, with Matt Jordan and Adam Beck.
These six songs fit well with the sounds and themes Signals fans have grown to love over the past decade: thoughtfully melodic and anthemic examinations of moving through life in times good and bad. “Your Old New Apartment,” Can’t Help But Wonder,” and “I Think We Can Stay Here” feel familiar; personal but entirely relatable stories that Stern sings with unwavering conviction. But “Time Spent In Transit” and “Sanctuary City” represent a more mature growth for the band; songs that take an empathetic look at the world at large. “I think if you're not exploring other viewpoints and constantly practicing empathy and putting yourself in other peoples' shoes, you're doing yourself and the world a great disservice,” says Stern.
But there’s probably no better statement of purpose for Signals Midwest in 2019 than on PIN ’s title track: “I made a sound/ But couldn’t pin it down/ And spent a decade trying to follow it around,” Stern sings with a melancholic sweetness. It’s a song whose origins date back to their breakthrough 2011 album, Latitudes and Longitudes , proving that the more things change, the more the constants in your life become ever so important.