The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s third full-length LP, Days of Abandon, is a hard pill to swallow in our current climate of ironic detachment. There is a sickly-sweet residue sticking to the Pains, and it’s definitely due to the particular style of sincerity with which they tackle everything that Days is awash with sentimentality.
The decision to go for the wallflower effect, by playing with quiet atmospheres that remain big in their own way, is a conscious one on the part of front man Kip Berman. Doing something sonically different is what excited Berman about making Days, and change in musical direction is a welcome one that develops the Pains’ desire to create a connection with the listener.
“Art Smock” is the opener, and as a brief, subdued number that is unnervingly tender, with the barest strumming of the guitar being accompanied by twinkling-clear keys, it does a good job of letting the listener know what she’s in for. Carrying on the virginal torch, “Simple and Sure”, with its euphoric chorus, is so earnest that I frequently thought of Anne Hathaway while listening to it.
Days of Abandon arrives at the heels of a line-up change that has Jen Goma of A Sunny Day in Glasgow stepping in for vocal duty and Drew Citron replacing Peggy Wang as live keyboardist. Goma’s voice has been praised for adding to the overall quality of the songs on which she takes the lead. Her voice is indeed flawless on “Kelly”, a song with a disarmingly charming jangle which Goma contributes to with her delicate, passionate timbre. Soft rock number “Life After Life” fits Goma’s feather-light vocals in a harmony that settles in the stomach like a sugar pop.
The exuberant and genuine tone with which the Pains prefer to express themselves hit all the right notes in “Masokissed” and “Eurydice”. Within the first few bars of “Masokissed”, the easy-going, elated jangle runs smoothly, sprinting headlong into three-and-a-half minutes of lush triumph. “Eurydice” takes the Greek myth and turns it into an anthem of sorts. Other memorable melodies include “Beautiful You”, a sunny track where Berman’s murmuring voice is as romantic as it is sleepy, as well as their latest single, “Until the Sun Explodes”.
A highly polished record that will appeal to those with a flowery sensibility, Days of Abandon by the Pains of Being Pure at Heart is a much heartfelt endeavour.