Monday, September 21, 2009

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - 'Higher Than the Stars'

[Go to MySpace to hear two of the new Pains songs right now!]

New York City’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart opened 2009 with one of the best albums of the year; now they’re closing it out with one of the best EPs, Higher Than the Stars. They’ve already been bleeding B-sides for a while; now they’ve gone and given me four new tunes, plus a really great remix of the title track. It’s like falling in love all over again.

For those looking to check out the Pains’ retro noise/twee/shoegaze sound (Early My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain, Belle & Sebastian with more distortion pedals, etc.), Higher Than the Stars might be the better buy in today’s economy, by which I mean it’s cheaper and still high quality. “Higher Than the Stars” opens the EP by slightly tweaking the band’s formula. It’s still dreamy and lovelorn, but the fuzz is all but gone. Not so on track two, “103,” the band’s love letter to Princeton University’s radio station WPRB 103.3 FM. It’s surely too soon to say a late ’09 Pains track has the classic sound of early ’09 Pains, but “103” is the most retro of the bunch. Already a solid addition to the band’s set list, “103” adds a dash of grit (relatively speaking) to the album.

“Falling Over” reveals the band’s seemingly growing push towards dreamy dance music, while “Twins” tries to bridge the gap. It’s fuzzier, but more mid-tempo. Without a Ramones-y tempo, “Twins” is easily the least appealing track on High Than the Stars. But the slack is soon picked up by the title track’s “Saint Etienne Visits Lord Spank Remix.” Sure, it’s an obnoxious title, but the remix strengthens the song’s more chill aspects. Given the mellow groove of “Higher Than the Stars” and “Falling Over,” the remix fits in better than “103” or “Twins.”

“Lord Spank” reveals yet another potential avenue for the Pains: remixes. Regardless of where the band goes for LP #2, though, I’m confident it’s going to be beautiful. Maybe they’ll drop a clean-sounding Darklands or a swirling Loveless. Hell, what if it turns out they have a Discovery in them?

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