To classify Kip Berman’s work as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart as “twee” would be doing him a great disservice. To be sure, there’s obvious influence from light-sounding indie pop (Berman himself has expressed love for The Field Mice in the past), but they can rock out when they want to. Yet Berman seemed a bit less than interested in the more energetic side of his sound on Days of Abandon, the last album released under the Pains moniker. That seemed likely due to the overhaul of the band’s personnel; Berman seemed eager to reset the band and start fresh. While that record (which is definitely worth a listen) bore the marks of growing pains, The Echo of Pleasure finds Berman back in a more confident place. This is the sort of record where one can tell that its writer both wanted and needed to make it.

The Echo of Pleasure has a more personal feel to it than past Pains records, largely due to Berman’s recent entry into fatherhood. The excitement and fear that comes with fatherhood permeates the record, which gives its ecstatic highs all that much more heft. That heft bears itself out in the production, handled here again by Abandon producer Andy Savours. The lush, deeper sound from the band’s earlier work is back, with a few minor tweaks, and it all feels more mature and deliberate. Whereas those earlier records played at being deep and complex through a combination of hero worship and ingenuity, the murky depths of The Echo of Pleasure come from more grounded, confident artistic choice.

What hasn’t changed, however, is Berman’s gift for melody. Simply put, the man is a natural at writing sweet, earworm-y indie pop. Just about every song on The Echo of Pleasure is a toe-tapper that’s bound to be stuck in your head for days. While Berman doesn’t dress his pop in the smooth, complementary arrangements of the previous record or the ramshackle, charming amateur arrangements of their debut, his decision to favor a more straight-forward post-punk sound that makes sugary gems like “Falling Apart So Slow” and the title track feel more impactful than they may have otherwise. The presence of Jen Goma–once again moonlighting on a Pains record in between tours with A Sunny Day in Glasgow–is always welcome, and her showcase moment on “So True” is easily one of the record’s highlights.

Regardless of what trickery Berman and his collaborators were going to get up to in the studio, The Echo of Pleasure was always going to live and die by its songs. Fortunately, not only did Berman come up with a killer set of songs, he also gave in to the joy and urgency that seem to have been filling his life. Indie pop has always had a decidedly adolescent bent to its outlook and how it treats its subjects, which makes The Echo of Pleasure all the more remarkable by its very existence. This is an assured, mature piece of work from an artist who previously deftly wove tales of adolescent affection; that he can do both is nothing short of brilliant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy

Perhaps the best thing that could be said about Open Door Policy is that it’s a Hold Stead…