The Pains of Being Pure at Heart excel at creating a particular kind of romantic nostalgia — stormy first loves, prom night jitters, being outsiders who've miraculously found each other. Sonically, they've honed a particularly lush blend of alt-rock sub-genres, from C86 to shoegaze, usually based on loud, modulated electric guitars and bandleader Kip Berman's hushed vocal approach.
On their fourth album, The Echo of Pleasure, they've expanded their sound to focus more on keys and electronic sounds, and Berman's ideas seem to be about reaching a point of maturity where you can appreciate the idiosyncrasies and messiness of love as they are in real life. Songs like "My Only," "When I Dance With You" and "The Echo of Pleasure" skew a bit closer to modern-but-still-'80s-indebted acts like Beach House and M83. "When I Dance With You" includes the more grown-up lyric "I don't know how I'll get the money, just want enough so you never have to worry." On "The Echo of Pleasure," Berman sings more explicitly, "I was young and sick with love, now I'm sick with something else."
The matured thematic concerns and musical growth of Berman's band are impressive in isolation, but this record feels a bit out of sync with our current cultural climate. There's been plenty of '80s revivalism in indie pop over the last ten years, and while Berman's sentiments are sweet, there's nothing revolutionary here. That said, revolution isn't a prerequisite for good music, so if insular, sensitive indie rock is your thing, you'll probably love The Echo of Pleasure. (Painbow Records)