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The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Pump Fresh Blood into ‘Days of Abandon’

SPIN Rating: 7 of 10
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Label: Yebo

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have wisely taken two steps back and one step forward for their latest, Days of Abandon. The Smashing Pumpkins-esque guitars and production of their sophomore album, Belong, are gone; but so is the lo-fi shimmer of their 2009 self-titled debut and the early singles that spurred their initial press attention. In their place is clear, angelic singing and clean guitars, which lack the obfuscating distortion that the Pains previously hid behind. It’s a refreshing change, indicative of a band successfully recalibrating as they leave their buzzband honeymoon period.

Opening single “Simple and Sure,” along with later album cuts “Life After Life” and “Massokissed,” reinforce frontman Kip Berman’s ability to write on love from its thorniest pains to its unmatched highs while still retaining impeccable guitar-pop sensibilities: His reverberant tones stay ringing in the mind, even as the next song starts. “Until the Sun Explodes” focuses on the peaks of love by speaking of a relationship that outlasts not just the lifespan of its couple, but the entire solar system. Though the album moves away from overt ’90s sonic references, that track, with its crushing guitars and soaring solo, would have made a perfect alt-radio single during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

While delicate opener “Art Smock” and the lengthy “Beautiful You” sound more like B-sides than tracks you’d expect to find frontloading the album, the record’s actual B-side is full of thrills like “Eurydice,” where the softness of the verses are punctuated by shrill guitars and choral vocal screams. In dialing down the pomp of Belong and the fuzz of their debut, the Pains discover something that transcends mere buzz: an ageless indie pop sound that could last them for years to come.