Album Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Higher Than the Stars EP

By on Wednesday, 7th October 2009 at 2:00 pm

Higher Than the Stars EP coverNew York City quartet the Pains of Being Pure at Heart released a new, five-track EP, ‘Higher Than the Stars’, in late September. It’s a slight departure from the band’s eponymous debut (released in February 2009 on Slumberland Records in America and Fortuna Pop! in the UK) that brought us ‘Everything with You’. But it still sounds like the Pains…, who in my opinion have been unfairly branded by the hipster-cum-twee pop genre label. Steve Lamacq predicted at the new year that shoegaze would make a comeback, and this band is evidence that the sound so big in the ‘90s can rise again in a newer, better form, with its dexterously lush guitars and emotional lyrics.

As per their debut album, at the forefront are the freewheeling guitars of bassist Alex Naidus and frontman Kip Berman, propelling the songs with a sense of urgency, augmented by keyboards from Peggy Wang and drumming from Kurt Feldman. Berman’s vocals and Wang’s harmonies round out the Pains’ sound. The title track is sublime, guitars and vocals washing over you like a midsummer’s kiss in the rain (see the video filmed by Seattle radio station KEXP at Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge below); the same could be said about ‘Twins’. ‘103′ is short and infectious. Love it. If you are old enough to remember, the instrumentation and vocals of ‘Falling Down’ will remind you of Kajagoogoo, but better! (Sorry Limahl.) Most unique in this set of songs: the Saint Etienne Visits Lord Spank Mix of ‘Higher Than the Stars’, in which a gentle song gets the rave treatment. Readers familiar with my current favourite artists as of late will not be surprised that I really dig this remix.


EPs afford bands the opportunity to branch out and record something between albums without being confined to the figurative boundaries of an album. According to Berman, this is exactly what they set out to do with this EP. Their effort succeeds admirably and leaves the listener eager for the band’s next album release. Let’s hope that appears sooner rather than later.


After the jump: more of my photos from the Pains at Being Pure at Heart gig at Washington DC’s Black Cat on 30th September 2009.




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[…] rocked the indie scene in a good way. A stop-gap EP called ‘Higher Than the Stars’ (reviewed on TGTF last October) indicated much more magic was on the way.So I’m glad to see they’re back […]

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