Article - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart wear it on their sleeves

With a cringe-worthy moniker and musical restraint that makes Belle & Sebastian sound like Quiet Riot, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart are not for the casual indie-pop listener. But for fans of fuzzy-guitar-drenched melodies, melancholy songwriting and well-crafted shoegaze, they don’t come any finer.

Formed in 2007, the New York quartet has rocketed to the top of the pops (or at least the top of the blogosphere) through its ’90s-throwback, wall of sound stylings, which have drawn comparisons to bands like My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain. After releasing a string of singles and EPs and being hyped by outlets such as Stereogum, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart released its self-titled debut in February. The album quickly won praises from the likes of the New York Times and Pitchfork, which named it “Best New Music.” The album “mixes sparkling melodies with an undercurrent of sad bastard mopery,” Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen wrote, castigating critics who peg the band as derivative. “You’re just being a dick if you think the past has some kind of patent on that. That’s just the way good pop music works.”

Indeed, there’s something timeless about the album’s sound, which drenches lead singer Kip Berman’s slightly distorted vocals with strong basslines from Alex Naidus; sturdy, unflappable drumming from Kurt Feldman; and occasional flourishes from Peggy Wang-East on keyboard and Berman on guitar.

Some of the tracks border on the cheeky, particularly the incest-overtoned “This Love Is Fucking Right” which insists: “In a dark room we can do just as we like/You’re my sister, and this love is fucking right!” Most, however, involve soul-searching and heart-wrenching pleas, highlighted by the compelling but glum “Stay Alive,” with lyrics that seem to be talking someone down from the ledge: “Don’t you try to shoot up the sky/Tonight we’ll stay alive.”

In any case, the tracks maintain a steady grip throughout the record, and though they often take a few listens to creep up on you, one suspects that the Pains of Being Pure at Heart could have as much staying power as the acts to which they’ve been compared.