First things first: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart is not an emo band. They’re not whiny, they don’t wear black exclusively, nor do they talk about slitting wrists.
This band, which we shall now call TPOBPAH for brevity’s sake is an indie-pop outfit from New York City, USA, comprised of Kip Berman (vocals and guitar), Peggy Wang (keyboards and vocals), Alex Naidus (bass) and Kurt Feldman (drums).
Formed in 2007, what got them together was their common love for the D.I.Y. music scene in the 80s all the way to the early 90s—the “twee movement,” in particular.
What’s “twee”? Apparently, it might have been the emo of the 80s. It was a rebellion against the overpowering masculinity of the hair metal and sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll scene. It was a movement that shunned blaring guitar solos and high-testosterone antics to get listeners excited.
Grainy, vintage-y music videos add to their street cred
Taking the place of those elements are these: jangly guitars, lo-fi aesthetics, dreamy imagery, and sweet, impressively catchy choruses written in a similar way you’d write something down in a personal diary. That is the basic TPOBPAH sound: innocent, enthusiastic and straightforward.
It’s hard not to like a cast of three guys and a girl singing a slew of jingles about how “This Love is Fucking Right,” or about “Young Adult Friction.” Innocent doesn’t mean that you always have to be as nice as a Care Bear, this band suggests.
Those two songs come from their self-titled album released in 2009. Critics took a liking to their style, with the guys at NME.com describing it as “pure indie-pop to hold close to your heart,” and Rolling Stone stating that “this quartet's exciting debut is a dark bodice-ripper for the buttoned-up-cardigan set.” Good stuff.
In 2011, they picked up right where they left off, and released a second album, Belong, which earned praise and received a “Best New Music” commendation from those hard-to-please audiophiles at Pitchfork.com. They called it “a bigger, bolder, and brighter follow-up that adds new dimensions to the Pains' sound while nearly equaling the songwriting of their debut.”
Let’s take a listen, shall we?