Hailing from New York City, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart first made a name for itself in the indie-pop scene back in 2009 with the release of its eminently catchy self-titled debut. On follow-up Belong, the band sharpens its sound and takes listeners on a trip down memory lane.
Belong, the album’s opening title track, is a dead ringer for early 1990s Smashing Pumpkins, as dreamy verse sections give way to marching-band drum rolls tucked within deliciously fuzzed out explosions of sound, while Kip Berman seems to be doing a rather admirable impression of William Corgan’s trademark whisper vocals.
But despite its occasional flirtations with 1990’s alt-rock sensibilities, the album is undoubtedly a child of the 1980s. Chugging four-on-the-floor beats, snare hits that sound like they were recorded in a cathedral, sparkling arpeggiated guitars and soaring synth movements are reminiscent of a time when big hair and heavy makeup ruled the rock world.
My Terrible Friend sounds like something Robert Smith would have penned two and half decades ago (think Friday I’m in Love), but the band pulls it off so well that one can’t help but forgive it. After all is said and done, saccharine synth-lines and bouncy acoustic guitars go a long way toward putting a smile on a person’s face.
Say what you will about the music sounding dated, it isn’t easy to do what The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is doing. Merely appreciating music from another era is one thing, but creating highly detailed and decidedly tasteful reproductions of music from another era, replete with splashes of modern flavor, is quite another.
Belong may never be thought of as a classic record, simply because it is too derivative. But it is nonetheless a well-crafted ode to the band’s rock ’n’ roll heroes. And because it is infectious and fun, it is worth a listen.
Panda Bear is the long-running (well over a decade now) musical project of Noah Benjamin Lennox, who is perhaps best known for his contribution to the critically acclaimed experimental rock group Animal Collective. But his solo projects, particularly the 2007 release Perfect Pitch, have also won him accolades from the press, and Tomboy, his new release, is likely to continue this trend.
The opening track, You Can Count On Me, begins with Lennox’s lone voice, heavily drenched in effects, chanting a play on words — is it “know you can count on me” or “no, you can’t count on me”? — as if it were a mantra. Epic synths and booming percussion then enter, the melody stretches itself out across several bars, and one instantly imagines a far away, transcendental space.
This sense of distance and mysticism permeates the entire record. Atop densely woven atmospherics, Lennox’s vocal melodies weave to and fro, rarely touching ground, glued together by lengthy chord progressions within which listeners lose their sense of time and direction.
Lennox certainly has a gift for crafting highly-nuanced soundscapes pieced together with sounds collected from, well, who knows where. And although the collection of sounds comprising the record is more consistent than some of Panda Bear’s previous efforts, the occasional inability to identify just what it is that you’re listening to is one of the pleasures of Tomboy.
On Friendship Bracelet, heavy tremolo renders all sounds as water, like a stream of consciousness, while peculiar squeaks and yelps, sounding a bit like wild animals, enter and exit. There are guitars here, somewhere, buried beneath crashing waves of strange sound. Trippy, indeed.