New Yorkers The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart garnered widespread praise for their debut record, which married shoegaze-influenced haziness with an almost Madchester inspired swagger. It had a commendably lo-fi fuzz to the overall atmosphere, which rendered the best tunes (‘Stay Alive‘) as memorable but meant that the record as a whole seeped a little into the background.
Follow up effort Belong sees the band turn to heavyweight producer Flood to ramp up the weight in their sound, and the opening title track serves immediate evidence of his influence. The guitars crunch harder, the melodies ring brighter, and the song worms its way into your head more directly than anything their debut offered.
The 10 tracks here stick with the band’s default setting of fizzy, bright pop full of energy, with one notable exception. ‘Anne With An E’ slows things down a notch, relying on aching, cinematic guitars and a widescreen production to frame the deceptively simple melody at its heart. It says a lot that this change of pace and emphasis makes this one of the strongest cuts here. Frontman Kip Berman finds himself much more prominent in the mix, but his lightweight melodies often rely on support from Peggy Wang’s airy harmonies, especially on bouncy single ‘Heart In Your Heartbreak‘.
Overall, the “baggy” influence that ran through their debut seems to have dissipated somewhat, and gives the impression that the band are finding their own sound they feel comfortable with. You do find yourself hoping though, as closer ‘Strange’ slides away in a euphoric fog of washy synth, that they aim to vary their sound a little more on their next effort.