In 2011, New York City band The Pains of Being Pure at Heart had its album Belong produced by storied knob-twiddler Flood, who gave it a dense, almost-shoegazey layer of sound. It was a departure from the airy jangle-pop that the group first made its name on. Days of Abandon finds the musicians returning to their sprightly, hook-heavy roots, and it’s a must-listen for anyone who loves the peppy side of 1980s college rock or who knows what Sarah Records is. The band has wisely front-loaded the album with “hits.” “Simple and Sure” whips about with a swinging beat, chirping backing vocals, and a chorus that aims skyward. “Kelly” follows that with an infectious bit of hand claps and giddiness that has sadly arrived too late to appear in a John Hughes film. Kip Berman and Peggy Wang provide a nice relay race between male and female vocals, which keeps things from getting stale, even as the pop songs give way to slow burners and exercises in emotional drama as outsized as the band’s name. The CD concludes with “The Asp at My Chest,” a song that boasts a glorious, horn-laden ending that Beatles producer George Martin would have approved of. This is the group’s most mature effort yet; for a modest-sized band on a tiny label, these people are punching well above their weight.
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