Montclair, New Jersey's Pinegrove quietly released one of the best records of 2016. Cardinal is a slow-burn album - the kind that initially hooks you because of the unobstructed views it provides into a songwriter's emotional center, then keeps you coming back, because behind the emotion there's also an expert level of songcraft that gives each verse, chorus and bridge a lasting effect.

Montclair, New Jersey's Pinegrove quietly released one of the best records of 2016. Cardinal is a slow-burn album - the kind that initially hooks you because of the unobstructed views it provides into a songwriter's emotional center, then keeps you coming back, because behind the emotion there's also an expert level of songcraft that gives each verse, chorus and bridge a lasting effect. Pinegrove's Evan Stephens Hall writes songs with that rare amalgam of raw emotion, artfully layered lyrics and hooky-yet-durable melodies.

Cardinal is also a comforting reminder of the endurance of rock. The evergreen "Is rock dead?" question is ultimately a dumb one (short answer: of course not; a decline in cultural cachet is not the same as death), but Pinegrove's existence is proof that the oldest formula in rock 'n' roll - drums, bass, guitar and a singer who would never make it in a school choir and is all the better for it - still has the potential to achieve lasting, transcendent catharsis.

It's December, and 2016 brought us all sorts of surprises, musical and otherwise. The February release of these eight songs feels like a lifetime ago. But Cardinal is still here, and it's still so good. Take comfort where you can find it.