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Video of the Moment #475: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

By on Tuesday, 10th May 2011 at 6:00 pm

New York’s the Pains of Being Pure at Heart seem to pride themselves on being misfits. Take for example the video for ‘The Heart in Your Heartbreak’. But misfits always get their way. Eventually. Watch (and laugh) below.



Single Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Heart in Your Heartbreak

By on Wednesday, 17th November 2010 at 12:00 pm

The new single from New York’s the Pains of Being Pure at Heart is called ‘Heart in Your Heartbreak’, which frankly is more than a bit redundant. Because we all know the Pains are all about heartbreaks, mistakes and everything in between. And personally, Kip Berman’s voice augmented by Peggy Wang’s harmonies are so angelic, they make everything better. Even heartbreaks.

This track is more poppy and less honey oozy than the tracks on the band’s debut released early 2009. It is a definite step in maturity, sounding less like that album and more like the ‘Higher Than the Stars’ EP released autumn 2009 (I reviewed this on TGTF last year shortly after I saw the band for the first time). Smartly, the beats are highlighted more, and the bridge features those start and stop ‘pauses’ of guitars in action that are actually harder to make sound good on rock recordings than you might think. Good stuff. Am I excited about their sophomore album release in 2011? A resounding yes.

‘The Heart in Your Heartbreak’ 7″ vinyl will be released on 14 December and can be pre-ordered from Insound.


Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Hooray for Earth and Surfer Blood at Black Cat, Washington DC – 16 June 2010

By on Monday, 21st June 2010 at 2:00 pm

Pop music doesn’t have to be complicated. New York City’s the Pains of Being Pure at Heart are a great example of this. They write songs that have guitars, keyboards and drums going at it harmoniously with emotional lyrics. Yet when you hear them play live, it all looks effortless. Last Wednesday they played a sold-out show at Washington’s Black Cat, the last date on a 2-week tour of America.

The first of two opening acts, Hooray for Earth, are a fellow NYC band (by way of Cambridge, Massachusetts). A really eclectic sounding band, at one point, I thought they sounded like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (a real solid-sounding guitar band). But Tom Petty never has synths on stage with him, or multiple percussionists: a regular drummer and another bloke who stands in front of a whole selection things to bang on. I commented to a friend that I would love to have that job, because you have the most fun, beating on things like there’s no tomorrow. (We talked to said bloke after the gig and he explained, “I have the best job in the business!” And even more funny, there was a similar guy in the next support band, Surfer Blood.) The addition of extra percussive elements made other songs sound like ’80s tunes ramped up, and I definitely liked that. Fun stuff.

So Surfer Blood was next. I’m sure you’ve heard their debut single ‘Swim (To Reach the End)’, it was on everyone’s lips last year. Even Keith Murray of We Are Scientists conceded to me in January that this band from West Palm Beach, Florida, were the talk of the town. Like the Morning Benders I had seen the previous week, they looked really, really young. But they can rock out and have serious guitar-playing chops. In addition to bringing the house down with ‘Swim’, they handily delved into emo territory with the darker ‘Harmonix’. In all the hype surrounding the Drums, Surfer Blood has been criminally overlooked, judging from audience reaction. Have a listen to their debut album ‘Astro Coast’ and see what you think. But what really made the crowd love them was their raucous rendition of Weezer‘s ‘Undone – the Sweater Song’, featuring keyboardist Peggy Wang of the Pains filling in for lead singer J.P. Pitts’ guitar playing. Two uni kids next to us in town for summer internships couldn’t believe their ears and absolutely loved it.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are not a pretentious band. Lead singer/guitarist Kip Berman is the guy next door, so white bread and sincere that just you know if you took him home to meet mum and dad, they’d love him instantly. And that’s a good reason why he and his band can win over crowd easily. There’s nothing fake about this band; they’re in it because they love making music and they love entertaining people with their music. Their brand of guitar pop is romantic and emotive, not threatening at all, and I think that’s the secret of their success. Listen to their music and your day gets brighter instantly. I liken the live experience to swallowing sunshine and having a warm, fuzzy feeling going through your whole body.

Their latest single in America, ‘Say No to Love’, continues the formula that made their debut album a success in the UK last year. (The single won’t be officially released in the UK until next month.) I’d heard the single online but wow, it’s incredible live. Along with gems from the debut album like ‘Young Adult Friction’ and ‘Everything with You’, this was as close to a perfect gig as you can get. It was also a mass farewell between the bands, and it was evident from the hugs all around that these three bands had gotten very close over the 2-week tour. So much that they joined together for a spirited rendition of the Ronettes’s ‘Be My Baby’. After the show another friend of mine (one I couldn’t find in the mess of people stuffed into the club during the show) Tweeted to me, ‘that closing singalong was INCREDIBLE‘. ’nuff said.

After the cut: more photos and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart set list.

Continue reading Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Hooray for Earth and Surfer Blood at Black Cat, Washington DC – 16 June 2010


In the Post #62: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

By on Wednesday, 2nd June 2010 at 2:10 pm

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart brand of shoegazey rock, packaged in the form of a self-titled debut album released in early 2009, 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 this summer with a new single and their sophomore album hopefully due later in 2010. ‘Say No to Love’ is the name of the track, and the New York quartet doesn’t disappoint, with gorgeous swirly guitar work and the angelic vocals of frontman Kip Berman and keyboardist Peggy Wang. A perfect track to start the summer.

There’s no video for ‘Say No to Love’ just yet, but there is a new promo out for ‘Higher Than the Stars’ that we wanted to share with you. But in case you needed further convincing that the Pains sound is the real deal, watch and listen below. It features furry animals like the LCD Soundsystem video for ‘Drunk Girls’, but this one has a far better conclusion. This all is making me more excited to see them later this month at the Black Cat!


The ‘Say No to Love’ 7″ single (backed with ‘Lost Saint’) will be released on 08 June on Slumberland Records and can be pre-ordered here. The band begins a tour of America tomorrow (03 June) in Connecticut; it concludes in Washington DC on 16 June.


Best Gigs of 2009

By on Thursday, 17th December 2009 at 2:00 pm

Now halfway through December and getting ever closer to the end of the year, it’s high time to write those “best of” end of year posts. As much as a nail-biter it was to choose my five favourite gigs of 2009, it allowed me to reflect on all the great gigs I’ve had the opportunity to go to in the Washington D.C. area and elsewhere. And it was a wonderful reminder on what great music is out there if you just open your mind and let yourself feast on what the current music scene has on offer. I encourage everyone one of you to go out to more gigs in 2010 and support the music community!

As USA editor of TGTF, I’d like to note that the majority of the gigs I’ve been to this year have been on my side of the pond and usually in my hometown of Washington D.C. But I think you’ll recognise most of the bands I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live this year. Here’s my top five of 2009:

5. Pains of Being Pure at Heart at D.C.’s Black Cat (Wednesday 30th September) – This didn’t feel like just any show. It felt a reunion and you were surrounded by friends, because the Pains have many friends in the Washington area. The guitars, the synths, and vocals from Kip Berman and Peggy Wang – they all combined to create something heavenly.


4. Camera Obscura at D.C.’s 9:30 Club (Sunday 21st June) – This gig featuring songs from their album released this year, ‘My Maudlin Career’, like ‘Honey in the Sun’ and the gorgeous ‘Swans’. Other previous gems like ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken’ brought the house down as Traceyanne Campbell’s beautiful voice rang throughout the club. One incredible show. So disappointed they skipped over D.C. on their autumn tour.


3. Dot to Dot Festival in Nottingham (Sunday 24th May) – My first music festival, ever. This was my second time seeing Friendly Fires and their first time headlining a festival to boot. It was amazing to be among lots and lots of their devoted English fans who turned Rock City in a sea of bodies dancing to their beats. It was also great to see Patrick Wolf again and Ladyhawke for the first time (the two acts directly preceding Friendly Fires at Rock City). Earlier in the day I was able to take in Matt Abbott and Skint and Demoralised at Nottingham-Trent Uni’s Glo Bar, followed by part of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s set in the uni’s student union main room.

Skint and Demoralised

Patrick Wolf


Friendly Fires

2. Friendly Fires at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg (Thursday 13th August) – Not a fan of getting bruised up by the drunks who stormed the stage like maniacs during the ‘Ex Lover’ encore, but this one gets high marks for the incredible crowd energy – so much energy that I worried that the floor would break out from under us from all the jumping around and dancing going on during their set. Further, Ed Macfarlane jumped down into the crowd during ‘Paris’, causing additional mayhem. This is probably one of the last times he’ll ever launch himself into the audience because I doubt his personal safety from this point forth can be guaranteed (!)


1. Elbow at D.C.’s 9:30 Club (Tuesday 4th August) – Somehow Washington managed to score one of only three American headlining dates in all of 2009 from the Manchester quintet. They didn’t disappoint, the whole crowd singing along to every word of Guy Garvey’s. The man has one amazing voice and kept everyone in the club spellbound. The show was simply brilliant. It didn’t hurt that Guy came out an hour before the show and kindly agreed to take photos with us fans who queued up early outside the club before doors opened.


After the jump is a full list of all the gigs I’ve been to in 2009 (in reverse chronological order) so you have an idea of the banquet I had to choose from.
Continue reading Best Gigs of 2009


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.

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


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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