Known for their often anthemic shoegaze, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s latest full-length may raise a few eyebrows. Days of Abandon through Yebo Music is a deviation from Pains’ soaring sound and lacks the power of Belong and their self-titled album.
Pains, often described as indie and noise pop, isn’t using effects pedals as a crutch on this one, and Kip Berman’s songwriting gives Days of Abandon emotional heft that’s been missing on previous records.
Berman lays all of his feelings out on the table, unobscured by shoegaze and pushed front-and-center by pop. The single “Simple and Sure” is an obvious example of this turn toward candor. Berman sings, “It might seem silly, but I’m sure/I just want to be loved, just want to be loved/It might be easy but I know/I simply want to be sure, just want to be sure.” Touching.
However, no amount of honesty breaks through lackluster instrumentals and a hum-drum album.
Berman, on vocals and guitar, alongside Pains staples Alex Naidus, bass, and Kurt Feldman, drums, are more than capable of putting out infectious, delightful records. Abandon just isn’t one of them. Jen Goma (A Sunny Day in Glasgow) and Kelly Pratt (Beirut, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Bright Moments) are featured on the record in a few bright spots like “Kelly” and “Life After Life.”
Art pop isn’t good just because it’s art pop, and while Pains aren’t the most heinous example of this trend, they’re an active participant in a wave of music that falls short of being interesting. “Eurydice” with its swirling blend of guitars, light vocals, and fuzzy synth and rhythms sounds like a lot of other songs, as does the ’90s-influenced “Beautiful You.”
Days of Abandon plays with the idea of dark lyrics accompanied by airy, breathy pop, but only “Until the Sun Explodes” is truly successful.
The bouncy pop number features a wall of synth and guitar sound, and it’s the only track that pairs dark subject matter with bright instrumentals while still being fun.
Holding up Days of Abandon as a paragon of artsy, fuzzy mediocrity isn’t to say that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart aren’t talented or unworthy of praise. The record just fails to make a noise. A lot of feeling and fervor was obviously poured into it, but all that emotion was lost in translation, and it leaves the listener feeling nothing at all.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Days of Abandon tracklist:
- “Art Smock”
- “Simple and Sure”
- “Beautiful You”
- “Coral and Gold”
- “Until the Sun Explodes”
- “Life After Life”
- “The Asp at My Chest”