'Pain'-ful listening

The Southern to host band with unsatisfactory new sound

Music is supposed to make us feel something. Personally, I listen to DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” to get pumped for a workout. I cried to blink-182 when my boyfriend broke my heart. I listen to Matt and Kim in the summertime when I’m relaxing on the beach.

Unfortunately, New York-based band The Pains of Being Pure at Heart has released relatively boring music in recent years, and I feel nothing but disappointment. I can only hope they revert to older, more exciting styles both in their upcoming album, “Days of Abandon” — which drops April 22 — and for their set at The Southern Saturday, March 8.

Their last album — 2011’s “Belong” — is entirely unremarkable. Lead vocalist Kip Berman’s androgynous, breathy sound does manage to contribute to the air of mystery that hangs about the album’s mood, but it is overly dramatic and utterly incomprehensible.

In certain songs, like title track “Belong,” Berman’s voice compliments the soft instrumentation, but in most others — particularly “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now” — the vocals are disjointed and out of place.

Occasionally on past releases, namely “Higher Than the Stars” and the band’s self-titled full-length album, both released in 2009, Berman’s vocal tracking was lightened wonderfully and given a depth with the layering of a female soprano voice; the result is infinitely more pleasing to the ear.

If Berman bolstered his distinct voice with sensuality or emotion, the music’s tone and plain sound would give off a better, more modern vibe than the 1980s prom sounds produced on “Belong.”

One of the album’s strengths, which is unfortunately absent for the majority of the track listing, is the heavy electric guitar that makes an appearance in “Belong” and “Girl of 1,000 Dreams.” The band seems to have forgotten to include any solid elements of rhythm in material they produced on the album, and it suffers greatly for it.

One of the band’s greatest strengths on its preceding albums was its reliable rhythm; drums and heavy guitar chords were not overwhelming, but still contributed much-needed structure to the music.

There are some aspects of Pains’ music that stay true throughout its inconsistent records. Its lyrical quality has been constantly on point. Sometimes a song tells a cute, kitschy love story, like “103” off of “Higher Than the Stars;” occasionally they are simply clever and biting, like in “Heart in Your Heartbreak,” from “Belong.” And “Stay Alive,” off of their 2009 self-titled album, is one of the saddest tracks I have ever heard.

The band’s 2009 material sounds closer to the normal vibe that artists at The Southern exude, so here’s hoping they will impress us with their old-school styles instead of their newer, synth-reliant tracks.

Published March 6, 2014 in Arts and Entertainment, tableau

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