Pains of Being Pure at Heart, a Brooklyn foursome that formed in 2007, are decidedly retro in a late-80s/early-90s shoegazer-lite way. There’s lots of glowing fuzzy distortion (more pretty sheen than gritty noisy), jangly hooks, and echoing synths that allude to early My Bloody Valentine, all topped off with singsongy and cupcake sweet vocals by lead singer and guitarist Kip Berman and keyboardist Peggy Wang, perfectly befitting the band's name.
Their self-titled debut found a fitting home at resurrected Slumberland Records, a label that released classics from the likes of Stereolab and Black Tambourine. This year Slumberland has released tunes from Crystal Stilts and Cause Co-Motion, younger bands that experiment similarly to Pains of Being Pure at Heart, in that they partake in all sorts of retro sounds to create a distinct sound all their own, packed with smart pop hooks and tight song structures.
For self-described music nerds who came of age with Nirvana, there are all sorts of musical references here. “Stay Alive” hints at the Cure and the Smiths with strummy guitar and twinkly keys, while “Tenure Itch” and “Gentle Sons” have a bit of a gothy Siousxie and the Banshees quality about it and “Hey Pal” prominently features reverby guitar reminiscent of Yo La Tengo.
Pains of Being Pure at Heart is an impressive debut, especially considering that the band formed only a year ago. Intelligent and adorable, lean yet expansive, this album is an immediate indie classic sure to make '09 end-of-year lists come December. • Katy Henriksen