Kip Berman’s heart has been broken, and he’s doing what any brooding indie-pop frontman would do to deal with it—he’s taken to his guitar and commissioned his bandmates to console him through song. Belong is Berman’s coming to terms with his sad state accompanied by fellow Pure At Heart musicians Peggy Wang, Alex Naidus and Kurt Feldman doing their best to cheer him up. But never fear, this story has a happy ending.
Calling on both well-known and unknown influences for its sophomore full-length, the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart brings back memories of the Cure, the Pretenders, the Smiths and the Smashing Pumpkins, among more obscure references. Still incorporating a bit of the fuzz that defined its first release, the group has opted for more crisp production amid air-like vocals on Belong.
It’s this contrast that defines the album, which Berman wrote about feeling out of place. While the guitars, bass and drums are heavy and hard-hitting through most of the album, Berman’s vocals remain almost nonchalant and light while conveying his heartfelt messages. His voice is a mix of Billy Corgan and Morrissey that never quite matches what his predecessors’ did in terms of power.
Lead single “Heart In Your Heartbreak” is a combination of the catchy indie pop from the group’s previous releases and Berman’s witty lyrics and wordplay. Berman sings, “She was the heart in your heartbreak/She was the miss in your mistake,” following a Smiths-like melody while Wang’s synth soars over top. The bass stars on this track, breaking from its repetitive line at the end of each phrase. But it’s Feldman’s drumming that drives each song with an infectious beat. He shines most on “Even In Dreams,” where the drums take a surprise turn in the song’s pre-chorus, then continue to plow through the rest of the tune.
Berman finally opens up his voice on “Girl Of 1,000 Dreams,” his aggression accentuated by an especially fuzzy guitar and percussion that’s dominated by bass and snare. Though the shortest on the album, the track is one of the best since the group is finally letting us in beyond its “everything’s OK, I’ll just sing about it” façade. Despite the heartbreak overtones, Belong is not a depressing or down-tempo album. It remains upbeat and concludes in a manner that ties up the loose ends of the story, all while raiding your new-wave album collection for inspiration.