Photograph by Pavla Kopecna

March 3, 2011, London, England – I haven’t seen a band play a university for quite some time, so it felt strange walking up the six flights of stairs to reach Tutu’s, the club attached to King’s College in London. I had to check my ticket to make sure that the Pains of Being Pure at Heart were actually the band playing and that there hadn’t been some gross error on my part. Moving from the stairwell to the venue, I entered a modest-sized room with a breathtaking view of the River Thames and London’s South Bank. After finding a good view from the small balcony, the opening act began.

I must say, there are few things more enjoyable than when an opener you’ve never heard of blows you away. Spectrals are a five piece from London that play really tight, surf rock-inspired music. I made the comment that they sound similar to Best Coast and afterwards my Google search revealed that they’re actually opening for them over the next few weeks. Definitely worth a listen to if you haven’t done so before.

This was the Pains’ final show of their European tour, showcasing material from their self-titled debut as well as from their new album Belong, out at the end of the March. While they all appeared rather tired, this didn’t stop them from putting on a fantastic and physically engaging show. They put their heads down and just hammered away at their instruments. Favourites such as ‘Come Saturday’, ‘Contender’, and ‘Young Adult Friction’ got the crowd warmed up for a string of songs that I didn’t recognize and can only assume are from the forthcoming release. One new offering, ‘Heart in Your Heartbreak’ is simply beautiful live, and if the rest are any indication of what Belong will be like, we are all in for a treat. The only disappointment was that keyboardist Peggy Wang’s microphone was very quiet and we weren’t able to enjoy the melodic harmonies between her and lead singer Kip Berman that make the first album so enjoyable. Overall they put on an enjoyable performance of jangly indie that was well worth the six flights of exercise.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Heart in Your Heartbreak
Spectrals – I Ran with Love (But I Couldn’t Keep Up)


— , March 9, 2011    Comments Off on The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: King’s College

Photograph by Sarah Cass

Welcome back to Ca Va Cool’s best albums of 2009. The first half of our list featured Wolf Parade off-shoots, a band experiencing a grand reunion, and an array of talented newcomers. Our top ten features the heavy hitters, the very best 2009 had to offer. Our contributors battled mercilessly to formulate this list. We emerge bloodied and bruised, confident that these are ten albums that will stand the test of time. Without further ado, here are Ca Va Cool’s top albums of ’09.

Photograph by Annie Powers

Photograph by Annie Powers

10. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Slumberland)

Gather around children and let me tell you the tale of four New York indie poppers who dubbed themselves The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. In their sugar-coated world all songs were dreamy, dense melodies drenched in saccharine sweet vocals and jangly guitar. Lyrics were emotional proclamations with dark undertones disguised beneath cute refrains and gumdrops. Teenage angst, sexual yearning, misdirected emotions, drug analogies and scattered profanities flowed with their overt sweetness and apparent levity in a musical dichotomy; the battle against light and dark arranging itself into aural beauty. Nothing less could be expected from a troupe of troubadours named after a children’s book and channeling broken hearts of the past into a C86 revival. What will become of the courageous quartet in the new year? The story is to be continued. In the meantime, we can lose ourselves in my favourite track about library love from their self-titled debut album released this year on Slumberland Records. — Sabrina Diemert

Continue Reading ‘Best Albums of 2009’ Feature List »

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— , December 26, 2009    2 Comments
Photograph by Annie Powers

Photograph by Annie Powers

True to their name, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are the free-spirited flower child of indie pop, sure to be found dancing carelessly in a sundress much like your first crush. Instead of picking flowers and sharing lollipops, they have released the follow-up to their eponymous LP released earlier this year. The Pains latest effort, Higher Than the Stars EP, embraces fuzzy guitars, candid exuberance, and yearning lyrics. Slumberland and Fortuna Pop will release the EP on September 22.

Based in New York City, the band has spent the last year dazzling Primavera, shocking South by Southwest, and amazing Pitchfork all while exploring the States, Canada, and the UK. Their shows have drawn comparisons to late nineties shoegaze deity My Blood Valentine and their more recent New York counterparts Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls. Falsetto synthesizer ballads overlain by Kip Berman and Peggy Wang-East’s vocals make for sweet dreams as they refrain, “I didn’t mean to let you down, and now everything that’s good is gone.” The idyllic melodies on Higher Than the Stars prompt moonlit picnics accompanied with lovelorn bedtime stories sighed by Belle & Sebastian. The quartet’s sound on the EP experiments with a stronger emphasis on synthesizers as if their harmonies were collectively – and appropriately – reaching for the stars.

The title track ‘Higher Than the Stars’ develops lively drumming courtesy of Kurt Feldman with discordant guitar interplay and a keyboard piece that aims for the sky. If the EP is your light-hearted summer love then this track is the first kiss – affectionately planted in the back of your mother’s car. ‘Falling Over’ continues the starry-eyed outlook as the EP allows for a shining distinction amidst Kurt’s playful cymbal clashes and Kip’s sleepy articulation. The blossoming two-tone vocals on ‘Twins’ are akin to Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan of Stars as The Pains seem to entice one another to reach soaring notes. The embracing development of vocals surpasses their previous effort as Higher Than the Stars has moments that audibly encompass an orchestral resonance.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Higher Than the Stars
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – 103

Continue Reading ‘Higher Than the Stars’ Review »


— , September 18, 2009    5 Comments

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Over the past few weeks, while everyone was sexually gratifying themselves to the new Animal Collective (no offence, I listened to it too), I enjoyed an upcoming release from Slumberland Records. The self-titled debut from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is out soon and has already been added to my canon of great albums from 2009 (the only entry so far besides Face Control by Handsome Furs).

Although they sound like indie pop from London, Bristol, or Glasgow, the Pains are actually a group of stateside (New York, New York) fans of the British independent music of the ’80s and ’90s they’ve so accurately recreated. Specifically, they idolize the unclean jangly guitars, hushed vocals, and steady drumming of bands from the C86 scene, the peaceful Sarah Records, and others moving all the way into the shoegaze experiments of Creation Records. To pinpoint it as closely as possible, they sound like Strawberry Wine-era My Bloody Valentine (thanks Victor) or maybe Another Sunny Day (which I’ve included at the bottom of the post so you can be the judge).

In 2009, some 29 years after the indie pop was born (citing the first release on Postcard Records), it’s still going strong. Check out Slumberland and Shelflife for other bands that refuse to grow up!

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – A Teenager in Love
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Young Adult Friction
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Tenure Itch

Another Sunny Day – You Should All Be Murdered (Sarah Records /1989)


— , January 13, 2009    1 Comment