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For their third studio full-length, NYC's masters of the concise The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have scrubbed up and shipped out to the pop archipelago where acts like Surfer Blood, Best Coast and The Drums reign supreme. It's still distinctly laced with calling-card POBPAH fuzz, but they've scaled back the shoegazer components, favouring the radiant surf-pop revivalist movement that's doused in lo-fi, sun-frenched bliss. It feels like a substantial jolt forward for the band, and one that for a long time seemed inevitable, considering their penchant for Stevia-sweet hooks and a lightness occasionally verging on twee.
Days Of Abandon is an oh-so-fitting title for this release, and as a complete package, the record typifies the meandering trail that Kip Berman and his ephemeral troupe of accompanying musicians. At this juncture, that includes, but is probably not limited to: Jen Goma (A Sunny Day In Glasgow), Alex Naidus, Kurt Feldman, Kelly Pratt (Beirut, Arcade Fire), Christoph & Anton Hochheim, Jacob Sloan, Jessica Weiss (Fear Of Men) and Drew Citron. The members of course aren't present all at once, with some being studio-exclusive, others strictly touring personnel, and some just flitting to lend a hand where needed. This casual approach to the line-up has probably aided greatly in the resulting tone of Days Of Abandon, which is as relaxed as a cat with a doting entourage. It's so chilled you'll need mittens and a scarf. Did someone say 'perfect summer record'?
Goma's presence especially is felt in this newly found, self-assured tranquillity. 'Kelly' (after Kelly Pratt?), merges new wave synths and '80s indie licks into a Cure-esque mixture, with Goma providing clarion pipes to the fray to drag it from a purely nostalgic number to a doozy on par with Youth Lagoon, Young Galaxy and Hundred Waters' pristine pop. The second tune she helms if 'Life After Life'. Pumped with slight brass notes, ballsier acoustic guitars than much of the record presents and a breezier, subdued atmosphere. It's not sad per se, but it's markedly less buoyantly optimistic – still great for beach BBQs and suppin' cosmos from silly glasses with funky umbrellas, though.
The portions of the album where Berman leads mic duties are still stellar. 'Art Smock' is a gorgeous, reflective zephyr, which is probably about as close to a ballad as you'll hear on Days Of Abandon – and despite its melancholy nature, it's remarkably uplifting in the way a Bon Iver paean is. 'Simple and Sure', which you've surely glanced at by now, is arguably one of the brightest pop singles of the past few months; it's chock full of summery motifs, a John Hughes sheen and stomping chorus earworms, and if you can remove it from yer noggin without a team of skilled surgeons then get in line for canonisation, 'cause that's a miracle.
Days Of Abandon is a rousing success. POBPAH's third LP lunges confidently into all the right places, emitting sunshine, glee, rainbows, sugar and sparkles as it goes like a sweaty unicorn running a marathon. There's very little to dislike about any facet on offer here, and considering summer is just about to be upon us, it's primed to be their most commercially successful record yet. Everything is falling into place for Berman & Co. here; the planets have aligned. The future, far from looking like the war-strewn, morally bankrupt apocalypse, as it often does for the rest of us, is really rather gleaming for The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.
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