The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Days of Abandon
For around five years now, if you were to ask me to recommend you a band that consistently doles out intriguing and effervescent lo-fi pop and rock that also makes you shake a tail feather, I would not hesitate to direct you to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Their first two records were stunning displays of all of the qualities that I just listed, the first of which still makes its way into my listening catalogue on a regular basis. This time around Kip Berman and company have cleaned up the overall mix and have refined their sound and are set on adding a new emotive quality on Days of Abandon.
Opening track “Art Smock” is perhaps the softest song that this band has brought to our ears thus far. It’s got this Belle & Sebastian like delicacy, complete with a couplet style rhyme scheme that plays on the quietness and provides a melancholic and nostalgic spirit to it. This beautiful start transitions into the spunky and altogether sunny single of “Simple and Sure,” which will have you dancing along to the to the jangly guitars and airy punches of “ohs” and “ahs.” This back-to-back combination kicks the album off with the right balance of reserve and spunk while also introducing you to the band’s new approach to their lo-fi pop. Later on you have one of my favorite tracks that this group has put out and definitely one of the gems that showcase the light sound they’re bringing to the table in “Masokissed.” You’re greeted by some rapid handclaps that lead straight into the infectious sound of angular guitars that cut straight through the airy sounding percussion and groovy bass line. Then Kip’s quick vocals jump in and start to spin a tale filled with word play as the instrumentation gives you sunshine in a song and it is essentially a track like you would hear of their self titled debut, but in this new style.
As I’ve stated before, what seems to be new this go-round is a gentle quality in the sound, which is promoted by not only the instrumentation, but also in the vocals. The presence of feminine vocals are increased, taking the lead off Kip’s hands for a few tracks and also providing a more prominent place in the mix as backing vocals. Late hitter, “Life After Life,” showcases these extra sugary vocals, especially with Kip offering his whispery tone to the backing vocals. On this track, those angular guitars are balanced with what sounds like horn parts popping in the background, making a perfect blend of sound as you get a song about a past love whose instrumentation exudes brightness and whose lyrics preach a fairly sad sentiment. Then the group closes things out softly and artfully as they brought you into this record with “The Asp at My Chest.” Kip whispers to you poetically about the endless haunting of a love lost that seems to be the pervasive theme of the album and then plays you out with majestically sweeping horns; like a day with perfect weather, this album gives out the soft opens and closes of sunrise and sunset with the brightness of the noon sun in the middle.
Yet again, this band has put out another record that has me reminiscent of their old sound, but also happy to be listening to their subtly ever-changing approach. Days of Abandon is a triumph for fans of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart while simultaneously giving new listeners a taste of what they’ve been missing. I have been spinning this record regularly for the past few weeks and will be for a while to come and really, you should be too.