The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong

Rating: ★★★★☆

After the release of their highly acclaimed first album, and then the release of an intriguing and excellent EP shortly following, the whole of the indie music scene has been anxiously awaiting The Pains of Being Pure at Heart to grace their ears with more fuzzy pop tunes. But now that the wait is over, and this buzzband from 2009 is back with their sophomore effort, will it live up to the first?

Belong, starts off immediately different from its predecessor on the title track. You can feel a thicker buzz in the guitar, a grungier sounding bass and a less bubbly, groovier feel to the track right off the bat. It may feel a bit disappointing to some at first, who wonder where their fluffy twee pop sound went. However, after repeated listens, or even toward the end of the four-minute song, it is easy to see and admire the growth of the sound. If this band produced a record that sounded exactly like the first, it would be mediocre and the spontaneity of said excellent poppy tunes would be banal. Even though it is not a completely drastic change, it is certainly a step towards a mellower album.

Oh, but not to worry, the bounce from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is certainly not gone: the very next song, “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now” kicks away the hazy start and busts in with the sweet pop goodness you’ve come to know so well. Rolling drums are accompanied by the vocals of Kip Berman and Peggy Wang that are sure to melt your heart into a dreamy puddle; the same goes for “Heart in Your Heartbreak.” While these are both classic moves from this band, the real superstar track comes your way on “The Body.” High synthesizer spins from the beginning and it is probably one of the hardest songs to not move your feet to. Kip’s lyrics are as earnest and catchy as ever, urging you to “tell [him] again what the body’s for!” It’s a dance jam of pure exuberance, ready made for any party, be it in your head or with actual people.

Belong continues on, going to similar places as the first album, with songs like “My Terrible Friend,” that resembles “This Love is F*****g Right!” However, it hasn’t become monotonous in the way that I thought this album might. The group has matured in that they wandered a little in places, keeping things fresh, but not so far that it is unrecognizable to listeners. This effort, while just not quite as good as the first release, is everything that I was looking for: the flair of youthful energy and springtime freshness paired with the feeling of a step towards a new direction that often follows these sentiments.

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