The biggest thing that leaps out immediately about The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s fourth album, The Echo of Pleasure, is how crisp it sounds. Previous efforts have taken the wall of sound approach, which worked just fine, but growth is good, as Johnny Slash taught us on Square Pegs.
While still layered, today’s Pains sound a lot more like their crosstown contemporaries, MGMT. The influence of fellow New Yorkers Vampire Weekend can be heard on “When I Dance with You.”
The band, of course, is essentially Kip Berman, helped out this time around by Jacob Danish Sloan, off of Dream Diary, on bass and Kelly Pratt from Beirut on horns. Pratt has also worked with David Byrne.
The opener “My Only” is pure alternative/pop perfection with a brilliant vocal hook and has subtle echoes of Beach House, while maintaining a distinctive TPBPH sound.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: a little rock, a little twang
This album seems a bit rockier than previous efforts as well – not in terms of unevenness but in the number of guitars, as evidenced by the second track “Anymore.” Crunchy then twangy, it provides the perfect counterpoint to the opener. “Falling Apart So Slow” also brings up the guitars.
Vocally, Berman mixes things up by letting Jen Goma from A Sunny Day in Glasgow take the lead vocal on the driving “So True,” a pop song which should be under consideration as a single. She also does a proper job backing up on “The Garret.”
The album closes with “Stay,” a very slightly country sounding ballad that certainly distinguishes itself from the faster numbers in its sparing and haunting structure.
By a band’s fourth album, most of the mystery is gone, but for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart the surprises keep coming.
More PCB Coverage from PF Wilson:
PF Wilson has been writing about music, TV, radio, and movies for over 20 years. He has also written about sports, business, and politics with his work appearing in Cincinnati CityBeat, The Houston Press, Cleveland Scene, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine, Atomic Ranch, and many more. Check out his podcast PF’s Tape Recorder available from Podbean or in iTunes.