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the pains of being pure at heart – days of abandon

it’s not very common to see bands backtrack through their already-established formulas these days, nor is it common to see bands execute those formulas so convincingly and with such fervor.  the pains of being pure at heart had all but forsaken the twee pop leanings of their self-titled era by the time they dropped 2011’s belong, a sophomore album that hinged on bigger hooks, louder guitars, and more confident songwriting.  but rather than continuing to prep themselves for large arena stages, the kip berman-led brooklyn outfit stripped everything back for days of abandon, the band’s most balanced album yet.

for those fans who adored the c86 tropes contained in the back half of the pains of being pure at heart, the majority of days of abandon will feel like a long-overdue extension of that aesthetic.  berman’s songwriting is at its finest and most consistent across the entire album, and is further aided by jangly guitars and very strong vocal harmonies.  much like “come saturday” set the tone for the band’s self-titled album, “simple and sure” defines days of abandon as it comes out of the delicate “art smock.”  the chorus hook is just as expansive and captivating as it should be, but there is a noticeable lack of fuzz as berman concedes “it won’t be easy but i know / i simply want to be yours.”  instead of using a familiar crutch to bolster a previously reserved and rather feeble voice, berman owns up to his own shortcomings, taking command of the lead vocal and using a combination of drums and keyboards to propel him forward, not drown him out.

while strong songwriting reigns supreme across days of abandon, there’s also a marked improvement of subtle musical nuances.  the stock ballad is saved for last, instead allowing berman and company to flip between irresistible pop tunes and more expansive, elaborate songs like “beautiful you.”  “coral and gold” masquerades as an early hint at the characteristic hesitancy of pains, but it soon explodes into a grandiose slow-burner that may be one of the heaviest songs on the album.  days of abandon also finds berman occasionally taking the backseat on lead vocal duties; jen goma handles the chores on “kelly,” an early, optimistic cut that wouldn’t have sounded out of place scored in a john hughes film thirty years prior.

the pains of being pure at heart may have ventured away from the anthemic rock that defined belong, but they’re certainly still capable of writing in that vein.  “until the sun explodes” is the raucous climax of days of abandon, precipitated by the sheer force that is “eurydice.”  ultimately, days of abandon plays as a combination of the salient traits of the band’s previous output; surprises aren’t common, but an increased attention to detail and nuance is.  bookended with instances of delicacy and sensitivity, the album reaffirms pains’ status as the frontrunners of sharp, catchy indie pop that can take on many shapes and forms with ease.  days of abandon will soundtrack many individual summers this year; don’t miss out on the bliss.

8.1/10

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