Album Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Days of Abandon

By on Monday, 2nd June 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Days Of Abandon album coverIf you’re looking for an album of songs to soundtrack your summer, look no further than ‘Days of Abandon’, the latest release from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. I first listened to the album while in the car on a lengthy drive, and I was immediately inspired to put the top down and cruise along the beach, despite the facts that (a) I was actually in kind of a hurry and (b) I don’t own a convertible. I settled for rolling the windows down and letting the breeze blow through my hair as I grooved along with Pains’ shimmering pop melodies.

I’m normally attentive to lyrics first and foremost, but in the case of ‘Days of Abandon’, many of the vocal lines are blurred into the atmospheric sonic effects, frontman Kip Berman’s hushed vocals blending with the sheer, cool guitars and shimmering keyboards. The instrumental soundscapes are almost like too-bright sunlight partially obscuring an otherwise beautiful view. On its surface, this music is sunny and carefree, but closer examination of the lyrics (helpfully provided on the band’s Web site), reveals a juxtaposition of forlorn abandonment with the lighthearted and relaxed instrumental effects.

Where the lyrics do shine through, they are thoughtful and impressionistic, purposefully vague but vividly evocative. The first lines of opening track ‘Art Smock’, “I want to know what happened to you / 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”, are a perfect example, articulated over acoustic guitar and ringing chimes.

‘Simple and Sure’ is an upbeat track that lives up to its name with a catchy chorus and light pop vocals over a steady rhythm and driving guitar riffs; I could easily hear this as a backing track to a shiny summer advertising campaign. Its spinning chorus, “It might seem simple but I’m sure / I just want to be yours / It won’t be easy but I know / I simply want to be yours”, leaves the most enduring impression of any track on the album. (Editor Mary featured it as a Video of The Moment here back in March.)

‘Kelly’ is equally bouncy and carefree, with softly lilting vocals from keyboardist Jen Goma (A Sunny Day in Glasgow) and bright keyboard melodies over tripping percussion. Goma is also featured later in the album on ‘Life After Life’, and while her light, clear voice is a nice diversion from Berman’s breathy tone, the pair achieve a subtle blend that doesn’t distract from the overall mood of the record.

‘Beautiful You’ and ‘Coral and Gold’ are sweepingly atmospheric tracks that somehow fade into the background, despite their almost symphonic grandiosity. The former track is over 6 minutes in length, which feels a bit drawn out for a song whose structure consists mainly of rhyming couplets such as “A martyr in your garters / Harder than I’ll ever be”. The latter has an startlingly bombastic chorus that all but drowns the delicacy of its lovelorn lyrics.

The second half of the album is a bit more focused, starting with the crisp drums, vibrant guitar melody and anthemic chorus of ‘Eurydice’, which is upbeat despite its melancholic lyrics. ‘Masokissed’ is a bittersweet play on words: “Sweet masokissed in the morning mist / Why would you ever leave this place / When all I need is your chip-toothed smile to know / life’s more than okay?”, accompanied by a another lively guitar line.

‘Until the Sun Explodes’ is exactly the short but energetic fireball suggested in its title, the chorus a barrage of guitars and drums underpinned by heavy bass. (Check out the animated video below.) Closing track ‘The Asp at My Chest’ is an impressionistic and atmospheric track featuring a slow, entrancing tempo and the group’s signature hypnotic vocal blend, which, along with the hissing percussion, create quite a serpentine effect.

‘Days of Abandon’ could be the perfect incidental music for the carefree days of summer. The purely pleasant pop style is easy on the ears and doesn’t require a great deal of commitment on the part of the listener. Nonetheless, devoted fans of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart will find reward in a little extra attention to the songs’ lyrical details.

8/10

‘Days of Abandon’, the third album from Brooklyn’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, is out today on Fierce Panda. The group have also announced a short list of UK tour dates to follow the album release.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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