The progression of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart’s third LP, Days of Abandon, teeters between pop and rock. The majority of this newest release sees the NYC native band fully embracing their noise-pop classification, as the music fuses the feedback of alternative rock with the instrumentation and production elements of pop to create a more melodic sound.
The overall album serves to balance the two genres. Some songs are undoubtedly more pop, particularly album opener “Art Smock.” A guitar-plucked melody supported by soft female vocals and delicate synth sounds, “Art Smock” immediately brings lead singer Kip Berman’s vision for the album to life. “I wanted the music to be joyful and full of light, even if the subjects were often dark,” she said in an interview with Stereogum. The background music and lead vocals are buoyant despite the more melancholy lyrics, as the song repeats, “should’ve known it was gonna fall to pieces again/broken where I stand again/I never learn this lesson right/ but I want you here.”
However, other songs tend to shift more towards the rock end of the spectrum, as songs such as “Simple and Sure” and “Eurydice” feature a more prominent guitar sound and pronounced vocals. Throughout these rock-focused songs, Berman is still able to maintain the light nature of the music, as he throws in catchy female vocalizing to balance out the heavier nature of the guitar. The lyrics also work to maintain the breezy nature of the music as the refrain of “Simple and Sure” repeats, “I just want to be loved/ simply want to be loved/ loved, loved.”
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The perfect balance between the two genres is achieved in mid-album climax, “Coral and Gold,” which alternates between light, pop verses and building, rock refrains. The rapid change from the delicate synth sounds of each verse to the instrumentally rich nature of each refrain serves for an engaging musical experience and distinguishes this song from the rest.
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But, at times, the band wanders too far down the rock or pop end of the spectrum, resulting in a disappointing stray from their usual caliber. In the particularly rock-heavy songs, such as “Kelly”, the music tends to lose its melodic feel without the balancing pop influences. Similarly, in the pop-heavy songs, such as “Until the Sun Explodes,” the vocals get lazy and fail to stand out against the instrumentation.
Overall, the album alternates and balances the two genres quite nicely, finishing off with “The Asp In My Chest,” a prime example of noise pop that also fuses in the inspired use of horns. The album begins and ends on a light, joyful note, and ultimately showcases The Pains of Being Pure At Heart’s ability to combine the best of two popular genres into their own signature style.
Voices Choices: “Coral and Gold,” “Eurydice”
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