In the run-up to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s third album Days of Abandon, lead singer Kip Berman hinted the subject matter might be dark. But the biggest change in Days of Abandon isn’t the tone — the band has always blended twee pop with depressing lyrics — but the sound. The exit of keyboardist Peggy Wang and bassist Alex Naidus brings the entrance of singer Jen Goma from A Sunny Day in Glasgow, and the new Pains make some of the quietest, gentlest pop of their career.
With the band’s reverb penchant scaled back, each song feels light and danceable, filled with twinkling synths, clean guitar and breathy vocals. Goma’s voice is a refreshing addition to the band, especially on her sparkling solo song “Kelly.” Berman, for his part, seems more muted than ever. On album opener “Art Smock,” he sings “I never learn this lesson right” just above a whisper. Beneath the upbeat guitar twang and tambourine of “Simple and Sure,” Berman lays his heart on the table, singing, “I will never find anyone so absolutely fun, as I found in you” in dead earnest. And the swooning choral hook on Eurydice (“I’ll never stop losing you”) takes on a darker meaning when connected to the song’s Greek-goddess namesake, who was brought back from the dead by the sound of her husband Orpheus’s beautiful music.
Days of Abandon is the Pains’ prettiest album, but taken together, the songs don’t quite stand out strongly enough from one another, often echoing one another’s charming riffs and harmonies. “Until The Sun Explodes,” the loudest song here, is a brief reminder of this band’s shoegaze-leaning past, and could almost be a rejected Belong track. It’s a welcome jolt on an album that could use one or two more of them.