2009′s most consistent rock band

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Higher than the Stars
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart‘s self-titled debut, released in February, is one of the year’s best albums by virtue of its consistency. Any one of its ten songs would have made a strong single, mixing lo-fi guitar grit with soft, whispered vocals and sugary pop melodies.

Now, seven months later, the Brooklyn quartet is releasing a follow-up EP that is equally stunning. Unlike the album, Higher than the Stars has a clear standout track that singlehandedly makes the collection required listening. The title track is a shimmering pop masterpiece, with bright, jangling guitars and dreamy keyboards melodies. The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but appear to describe a failed high school romance, with repeated references to “the back of her mother’s car.” It’s a gorgeous teen anthem that would have worked perfectly as the theme song to a John Hughes movie.

“Higher than the Stars” may be the best track, but this isn’t to suggest that the other three songs are weak. “Falling Over” is a soft-hitting acoustic strummer with Morrissey-style vocals and glitzy keyboard leads. “103″ and “Twins” are both fuzzed-out dream pop, striking a perfect balance between noisy abrasion and bubblegum bliss.

Tacked onto the end of the CD version is a remix of “Higher than the Stars” by British electropop trio Saint Etienne. It sounds a lot more like Saint Etienne than it does the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and the dark, percussion heavy arrangement doesn’t quite capture the widescreen beauty of the original track. But despite this underwhelming finale, Higher than the Stars recaptures the pop perfection of the group’s debut and suggests than we’ll be hearing plenty more great things from the Pains in the coming years.
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