Album Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong

When The Pains of Being Pure at Heart released their self-titled LP a couple years back, I was pretty dang confident that they couldn’t possibly get any cuter, or any more adorable, or any more ridiculously infectious than they were on that fantastic collection of sweet fuzzpop songs. Now, having listened to new record Belong many a time, I have to say I stand corrected. With Belong, TPOBPAH shakes off that sophomore stigma and delivers a truly beautiful, intoxicating record.

For quite some time it took me a while to move beyond the first three songs, so splendid a trio do they make. Title track “Belong” harnesses a delectable feeling somewhere between innocence and experience, rich with big guitar backing and those breathy, breathless vocals of Kip Berman. “We tried another,” he sings, “let’s try each other.” The frenzy of “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now” hearkens back to 80s Brits, owing much to The Smiths in sound but lyrically nowhere near the rainy day moroseness of Moz. My favorite, for now, is “The Heart In Your Heartbreak,” does tread that grey sky territory, all lovely moping backed by sounds so irresistible they belie the sadness contained within. I often think that sad songs are the best to dance to, and “The Heart In Your Heartbreak” is no exception.

Once I got past those three, I realized just how good the record in its entirety actually is. “The Body” cajoles with synthy swirls and Berman’s charming voice. “I wonder what it’s like to be liked,” Berman opines in the John Hughes-would-love-this-song “Even In Dreams,” a song that calls to mind images of Andy and Blaine exchanging lovelorn looks across the halls while that dastardly James Spader keeps a watchful eye on their burgeoning, nearly-doomed romance. “Girl of 1000 Dreams” is as shoegazey as I think I’ve ever heard (well, on record anyway) TPOBPAH get (which is saying a lot), the fuzz nearly overpowering (in a good way) and Kip assertively sassy. Very, very nice. “Too Tough” sounds to me the most like a bridge from the first LP, with its’ steady drums and that certain arch glow to the guitar, sort of like a slightly slow-motion step-brother to the most excellent “Stay Alive.” It’s over far too soon, closing out with the dreamy, synth-heavy lull of “Strange,” a fine note to end on, with Berman singing about dreams coming true and a glorious wall of noise building and building behind him.

There’s something special about this band, my darlings, very special indeed. They’ve struck the perfect balance between sugary pop and kinda sorta badass noise. The latest result of that coupling, Belong, is something you’ll most assuredly find yourself turning to again and again, smiling and laughing and dancing all the while. Without a doubt, one of the best albums you’ll hear all year.

mp3: Belong (The Pains of Being Pure at Heart from Belong)


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