The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

R5 Productions Presents

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

Twin Shadow, Creepoid

Thu, March 31, 2011

8:00 pm

First Unitarian Church

Philadelphia, PA

$13.00

This event is all ages

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The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Do The Pains of Being Pure At Heart belong? After garnering widespread acclaim from the likes of The New York Times, Pitchfork and NME to countless indiepop forums, blogs and even Live Journals for their out-of-nowhere s/t 2009 Slumberland debut, have The Pains made the kind of record that will matter to the kind of people to whom records still matter?

From the opening explosions of electric guitar on “Belong” (“We don’t”) and the sumptuously synthetic dance pop perfection of “The Body” to the prom-in-heaven chorus of “Even in Dreams” and the closing moments of the uncommonly sincere and affecting “Strange” (“…and dreams can still come true”) the answer is an unqualified, resounding (and damn good sounding)

“Yes.”

Having moved beyond mimicking, albeit exquisitely, their impressive record collections, this album is a celebration of the possibilities of pop from New York City’s pre-eminent indiepop believers. It is as much an affirmative answer to “can they” (rise above their influences? Capture the magic of their debut without repeating it? Use color on their album sleeves?) as it opens the door to the more difficult question of “how do they?” Or more precisely, how do they make such affecting, yet unaffected pop music? How do they sound at once confidently vulnerable and carelessly thoughtful? How does a band on Slumberland make a record with two of the most recognized producers in the world and come out the other end sounding even more like themselves than before? The dichotomies are daunting, but their resolution on Belong is nothing short of stunning.

Recorded with the production and mixing team of Flood (Depeche Mode, U2) and Alan Moulder (Smashing Pumpkins, Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride), Belong unleashes added power, while retaining all the sweet sweet melodies that still hit that pop spot.

“I definitely see this album as keeping with what we started doing at the beginning, only more,” says singer/guitarist Kip Berman. “More immediate, more noisy, more beautiful. We never stopped believing in noise and pop, but now we’ve pushed both further. Compared to the last record, It’s far more visceral, more vital, more of the body. It’s about feeling, not feelings.”

A continuation of what they started is a good thing, considering the loyal admirers and grass-roots support for what “could be the most promising indie pop group around” (Pitchfork). Never ones to get bogged down in self-seriousness, though, what we’ve got here is a band who tends to spend most interviews talking about how barely-remembered underground pop bands of the 80s and 90s are far superior to their own music, eats copious amounts of Haribo Gummi Candy and plays Boggle and Basketball on the road.

“The whole experience has just been a lot of fun for us – and a huge learning process,” says singer/keyboardist Peggy Wang, “We’ve really always gone more on intuition than technique. We’ve always followed our heart. My favorite bands are the ones where you can tell the people are true friends and would be hanging out together even without playing music – or at least that’s what we are and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

One can certainly feel the intuitiveness and immediacy in each of the album’s ten tracks. But where past offerings might’ve cocooned front man Kip Berman’s woozy tales and beckoning high tenor in layers of gauze, Belong bathes them in a cathedral-like stained-glass light, revealing the beauty and pop perfection that once hid beneath fuzz and reverb. Radiant and heavenly, the band exults in the freedom and possibilities of pushing their sound beyond simple fuzz pop motifs and, liberated from the burden of those fuzzy memories, elevates their songwriting to new heights.

“Alan Moulder and Flood had a lot to do with helping us believe in ourselves, but they didn’t try to change the way we did things,” says Berman. “They just helped us focus on the things that made us ‘us,’ and allowed us to go all-in on the things we loved and strip away the things we didn’t. It was an amazingly validating experience to even get a chance to work with them, since they came into this because they saw something in our music, not because we were some kind of fat paycheck or will win them a Grammy. Perhaps not, but The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have come a long way since their beginnings as drum-machine equipped neophytes playing a legendary 5 song, ten-minute set at Peggy’s birthday party in March of 2007.

Through a self-released EP in 2007 and a series of eagerly-received singles like 2008’s “Everything With You” and “Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan” the band developed an intensely loyal underground following. Upon release of their self-titled debut album in 2009, that acclaim extended to well-respected cultural tastemakers like The New York Times (“sensitive and sublime, Best of 2009) Pitchfork (Best New Music, Best of 2009) Stereogum (“Addictive pop gold” Best of 2009) and The NME (“pure indiepop to hold close to your heart,” Best of 2009).

Looking forward, Spin chose Belong as one of the upcoming “winter albums that matter most”, and Pitchfork gave the single “Heart in Your Heartbreak “Best New Music, stating “It’s immediately appealing in the same way their debut was.”

“At first, it kind of surprised me that anyone would really take notice at all,” recalls Berman. “We’re an indiepop band and so many of our heroes were pretty much ignored beyond really obsessive music nerds – people like us. So I never expected much more than about maybe 50 people (parents not included) to like us – but hopefully those people would like us a lot. At some point, it occurred to me that ‘hey, we’re not hitting a wall here, we’re actually doing things right and people that might not care about out of print Rocketship singles or Sonic Youth b-sides actually like this as pop music – which to me is even more cool. We’re always eager to tell people about bands that are way better than us and educate younger people about all the cool, under-appreciated music out there.”

Belong’s strength is the quality of the songwriting and each songs ability to sound distinct from one another while still holding together as a unified record from start to finish. Some, like the fuzz-mad “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now,” “Girl of 1,000 Dreams” and statuesque “Too Tough” wouldn’t sound out of place on their first LP, taking their cues from Berman’s plaintive voice and liberal use of fuzz guitar. Others, like “The Body” and “My Terrible Friend” derive their power from drummer Kurt Feldman’s pulsing rhythms and Peggy Wang’s more pronounced keyboard lines – a winning development that helps push the band beyond their comfort zones to great effect.

One place they never deviate is in their connection with their fans. Like them, The Pains have an idealism that stems from a nearly unhealthy devotion to pop music. Talking to the members one needs to pull out their band-to-conversation calculator, as they are likely to go off about bands they love – from The Pastels, The Promise Ring and Black Tambourine to Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins and O.M.D.

“The whole idea of the album, for me, is about what it’s like to not belong,” says Berman. In part it’s like our band – we have all these amazing opportunities, but I feel constantly out of place. Not ungrateful – but like, undeserving. On the other side it’s the idea of not feeling a sense of belonging individually and how it’s so great to be able to find someone else who doesn’t belong so you can not belong together. That’s what this band has always been about – being on the outside looking in. We somehow snuck our way into the conversation of ‘real bands’ even though I still think don’t really belong.”

Berman might want to rethink that statement — with Belong, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have created a piece of sonic bliss that fits – for the moment, and for the long-run.
Twin Shadow
Twin Shadow
“That moment when something pure and constant is broken, where you’re filled with vulnerability, that moment is what I live for in art,” says George Lewis, Jr., aka Twin Shadow. “I’ve always chased that in my music, and when I find it I try to reign it back right before it falls over the edge.”

Never has a Twin Shadow record hit that sweet spot like ‘Eclipse.’ Brimming with dramatic tension and explosive, emotional release, it’s an album of heartbreaking uncertainty and anthemic longing, a soundtrack to self-doubt and desire and the kind of unshakeable, late-night thoughts that hold the promise of sleep dangling forever just out of reach. ‘Eclipse,’ Lewis’ third album as Twin Shadow, follows up on the success of 2012’s ‘Confess,’ an international critical smash which Pitchfork hailed as Best New Music for its “brash lyrics [and] laser-focused songwriting,” Uncut called “an impeccable sequel to an immaculate debut,” and NME dubbed a “thrill ride.” Stunning performances everywhere from Fallon and Conan to Coachella and Bonnaroo cemented Lewis’ status as one of the most charismatic and compelling frontmen in music today, but by the end of touring for ‘Confess,’ he found himself burned out and in need of solitude.

“I had moved to California after finishing the last record, and a lot of my time after the tour was spent in this little house on top of a hill in Silver Lake, just kind of being very secluded and not really socializing much,” remembers Lewis, who was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in Florida before relocating to Brooklyn, where he adopted the Twin Shadow moniker.

In LA, he spent time restoring an old car and working on his motorcycle, embracing the privacy and welcome change of pace from the East Coast. He went for long drives around the city, listening to pop and hip hop radio for the first time in years. But when it came time to start thinking about his new record, the proximity of other homes clashed with his nocturnal recording tendencies, and so the hunt was on to find the perfect studio space, one where he could never, ever wake the neighbors.

“We had played a show at Hollywood Forever Cemetery,” Lewis remembers. “They have concerts there and we had played in the Masonic temple on the property, and my manager and I were discussing, how it would be cool if the cemetery had a place where we could set up a studio. At night there would be no one to disturb.’”

Lewis took a tour of the grounds and fell in love with the historic chapel at the far end of the sprawling cemetery.

“The Inside of it was empty, and there was this little, I guess it would have been a minister’s quarters,” he explains. “I could set up a control room there, and then I would have access to the large chapel space, as well. So we just jumped at the chance to do that and we started the whole process of building up my studio inside of this chapel in the cemetery.”

It was a spooky setting—especially considering Lewis recorded, produced, and engineered most of the album by himself in the dark of night—but it was also a beautiful one that lent the music an epic, spacious quality. ‘Eclipse’ is the biggest sounding Twin Shadow record to date, scaling monumental emotional heights and facing down intense anxieties and moments of naked vulnerability head-on with a remarkable clarity of vision.

Album opener “Locked and Loaded” sets the scene immediately, with dreamy synthesizers floating below Lewis’ lush voice as he sings, “I’m all alone, phone under my pillow / Sleeping on a time bomb waiting for your phone call.”

The song bears dual meanings for Lewis, who found himself at the crossroads of an uncertain relationship while simultaneously dealing with the hospitalization of his father during the making of the album.

“Almost all of the songs have this duality,” he explains, “and that’s why I called the record ‘Eclipse.’ “It feels like two elements passing each other, one blocking the other out and then resurfacing again, this idea of very small things eclipsing bigger things and blocking them out.”

“I’m Ready” begins with a hushed, half-spoken verse that flashes back to the house in Silver Lake. “There’s a boy in a car at the top of a hill looking down at LA,” he whispers. “He’s so close to the stars and the fires that start but he feels far away.” An exultant chorus breaks through the insecurity and doubt of the verses, as Lewis triumphantly sings “I’m right here, I’m ready / I need this love” in one of the album’s most memorable hooks.

“When The Lights Go Out” tackles secrets and infidelity in a digital age where privacy is a thing of the past, and “To The Top” is a towering ballad about the delusional desire to repeat past mistakes in hopes of preserving fleeting moments of pleasure and comfort. The album also includes Twin Shadow’s first duet, “Alone,” which features vocals from Lily Elise, while the dancefloor-ready “Old Love / New Love” features vocals from D’Angelo Lacy.

“Even when I try to make a fun dance track, it’ll still end up boiling over with a vulnerable quality,” says Lewis. “I think it’s because I can be a bit reserved emotionally, I can be guarded and hold it all back in social settings, so with music, it’s really important for me to let my guard down as much as possible.”

In letting his guard down, Lewis has ultimately reached his greatest heights yet with ‘Eclipse.’
Creepoid
Creepoid
“Creepoid took the stage. They played as if they were reviving the grunge-filled chaos of Sonic Youth circa '93, but with the finesse of mid-period Creation Records shoegaze acts like Swervedriver or Slowdive. The sound was full of fury, but the dual vocals of guitarist Sean Miller and bassist Anna Troxell soared like an airy wave that enveloped the listener in a blanket of sweet nothings." - THE DALLAS OBSERVER
Venue Information:
First Unitarian Church
2125 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19103
http://www.philauu.org/