On its 2011 sophomore effort, Belong, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart evolved from its lo-fi origins to provide a twee twist on fuzzy alt-rock and synth pop, successfully employing an ambitiously big, noisy sound without overwhelming the shoegazey subtleties evident in their earlier work. On the new Days Of Abandon, the band—which, with the departure of keyboardist/co-vocalist Peggy Wang, has mostly become a shell for frontman Kip Berman—jettisons that contrast in favor of soft, jangly post-punk melodies. Falling far short of the promise of Belong, it is a disappointingly mild approach with exceedingly bland results.
Days Of Abandon is unquestionably the group’s most glossy and sophisticated record to date; to achieve this, Berman strips his songwriting of its punch, relying more on breezy atmospherics than memorable hooks. “Simple And Sure” sets the too-cute mood with sunny synths and a soaring, uncomplicated chorus of “It might seem simple but I’m sure / I just want to be yours.” As the bright, buoyant spirit continues through to “Eurydice,” however, one starts to get the sense that these songs’ airy excursions through the ether aren’t going anywhere in particular. And though “Until The Sun Explodes” attempts a late-album recapturing of Belong’s distorted dynamic, a limp, half-hearted riff prevents the track from ever getting off the ground.
For what it’s worth, the subdued style may be a better fit for Berman’s breathy, hushed vocals, which never were a very clean lock with the edgier material; with contributions by Jen Goma of A Sunny Day In Glasgow (who even occasionally takes the lead), Days Of Abandon’s lushly clean tones provide an innocuous foundation upon which layers of warm harmonies are laid. In the end, the record’s flaws aren’t wholly a product of the mellower genre as much as a generally uninspired execution. The gentler ambiance and oh-so-precious presentation just don’t make up for the lackluster song-craft, and there’s little other innovation at play to save it all from being an unremarkable bore.