The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Days of Abandon
I have not read any reviews of the latest Pains of Being Pure at Heart album, Days of Abandon, but I have a feeling that I won’t find much new to say about it. With this, their third album, they’ve progressed again. They began with a classic 80s/90s cute indie pop sound, added a bunch of fuzzy guitars and density with their second album, Belong, and now, they’ve stripped away that feedback and have glossed everything over. Instead of indulging in the so-called “shoegaze” sound, or the C86 sounds, they now seem to have more in common sonically with mid-80s ABC. This may sound like a slight, but if you know me, you know that I love those old ABC records. It was my chance to be in on their grand scheme and still thrill at the glossy sounds of perfectly performed and recorded shiny melodies that I have generally eschewed. Having said that, it still took me a handful of listens to take in the changes and fully accept them.
Word has it that this is almost a solo album (with guest musicians) for songwriter Kip Berman. The credits seem to indicate the same core group (Kurt Feldman, Alex Naidus), but keyboardist and background vocalist Peggy Wang is sadly missing. Her vocal duties are now being fulfilled and then some by A Sunny Day In Glasgow singer Jen Goma (great voice! I think I need to give that group more of a listen). In fact so much so, that she takes lead vocals on two songs – her plaintive plea for a chance of coupling with “Kelly,” and the similar “Life After Life,” where she sings again to a lost soul who she desperately wants to save. Goma provides very pronounced and strong vocal harmonies throughout. So much so, that when her voice chimes in on most songs, often paired with an emphasizing keyboard splash, during each chorus, the songs take a much bolder turn. Each chorus here is big – almost too much so – yet there’s no denying Berman’s knack for really addictive songwriting. Check out the first single “Simple and Sure” for evidence with its massive yet simple message of devotion. The second pop single “Until the Sun Explodes” also professes enduring devotion as Berman emotes to his loved one from the side of a hospital bed with a two and a half minute sugar coated nugget of pure catchiness (“but you don’t look right in the hospital light / breathing soft and slow / but I’ll say to you I’ll stay with you / until the sun explodes”). Then there’s the tragically sad song “Eurydice” (try to remember your Greek mythology), where his loved one has passed on and he struggles with acceptance. This song’s chiming and building chorus (“I never stop losing you”) is so over the top that it teeters on silliness. Yet, this song has been stuck in my head for a couple of weeks now – in a really way - especially the climactic part where Goma frantically cries out “In the summer rain / alone I cried / I couldn’t stand to think heaven was a lie” before the song goes fully off the hinges with musical dramatics. It really is pretty spectacular. The album is filled with love songs for those lost through various circumstances. “Art Smock,” the acoustic opening ode to a school crush on the misunderstood punk girl is priceless, as are the fantastic song arrangements and musical touches throughout (check out the tasteful horns on the final two songs).
Yes, it did take me a few tries before the album’s new direction started to sink in, but now that they have, I have fully immersed myself. Berman is a great songwriter with a knack for great pop songs with any kind of adornments and an endless supply of exuberance. Check it out, if you haven’t already.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart "Until the Sun Explodes"