The Pains of Being Pure At Heart: Days of Abandon- Sweetness for days, and would you expect any less from an indie pop group whose own name comes from a children’s book? New York’s Pains of Being Pure At Heart have always found themselves at the middle ground between twee and shoegaze influence and unsurprisingly have been turning out likable, earnest records since their 2009 self-titled debut. With their latest effort, Days of Abandon, the band has traded in some of the fuzzy guitar rock that started to emerge on the debut and took centerstage on their sophomore follow-up, Belong, in favor of polished, sunny pop that is inviting, endearing, and sweet to a degree that is cavity-inducing.
‘Art Smock’ acts as our introduction to the album. With the light instrumentation and the tender intonation of Kip Berman’s vocals on this particular track, it almost seemed comparable to something you might hear Bret McKenzie sing in a ballad. It doesn’t seem like that odd of a comparison to make either when you hear lyrics like “I liked you better in your art smock/mocking art rock/without intention, without design/you said you’d never be fine with being fine/or mine.” It’s certainly cute in nature but by no means is it the best song on the effort. Now with the following track, ‘Simple and Sure’, that’s when things are really kicked into gear. Whereas ‘Art Smock’ wistfully gazes out a sun-drenched window, ‘Simple and Sure’ is an invitation to get up and dance with whoever is closest. It’s a song that manages to capture that wide-eyed energy featured so prominently on the self-titled album. The vocals and melodies are equally happy-go-lucky which is a continued quality throughout the rest of the album that leaves listeners captivated.
‘Kelly’ is another charming addition, with a lovely job done by A Sunny Day in Glasgow‘s Jen Goma, a newly-added member to the lineup after the departure of former keyboardist/vocalist Peggy Wang . Vocals are split up between Goma and Berman throughout Days of Abandon and they compliment one another beautifully. Goma takes the lead on tracks like ‘Kelly’ and ‘Life After Life’ and does so with assurance and grace.
Earlier, in talking about the first track of the record I noted that it was not the strongest track on the album. That title without-a-doubt goes to ‘Eurydice’, one of the singles they released before the album officially dropped. The lively tempo, the perfectly blended instrumentation, the secondary background vocals that fade in and out hauntingly (especially toward the end of the song); everything about it is a recipe for musical bliss. It captures a hopefulness and you can’t help but feel it deep in your chest when the chorus rolls along and you hear the words “I never stop losing you.” Another standout on the album is the track that immediately follows, ‘Masokissed’, with more playful melodies and lyrics that you can’t help but smile at: “Sweet masokissed/in the morning mist/Why would you ever leave this place/when all I need is your chip-toothed smile/to know that life’s more than ok?”
With two full-length releases already under their belt, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are starting to focus in on and fine tune what it is they do best. They know who they are as a band, though they’ve lost a couple members along the way, and most importantly, they know their sound. That sweet, likable quality so present in everything they create has almost become a trademark at this point. Rather than ignore this, Berman and crew have highlighted it with lovely tunes that are warm and catchy to a fault. Days of Abandon isn’t for everyone, I have to admit. There are those who prefer something a little more dark in their music; a certain sadness that I guarantee you won’t find on this album. This is an album set to theme the brighter moments in life and allow you to keep your head in the clouds, if not for just a moment…9.7/10