The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at The Bottleneck – by Ian McFarland

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart made a lot of noise when they debuted with their first album at the beginning of 2009. Despite having only been a band for a couple of years, the Pains found themselves suddenly being talked up by seemingly every music blog.

On a local level, at least, it gave them an uphill battle – their inexplicable explosion of population was frustrating to the point of being alienating, and I put off every listening to their first release. And though I hadn’t seen the band before Thursday night, I’ve heard of underwhelming performances from this band that, to be fair, didn’t have much time to coalesce as a live act.

But when the Pains strolled into Lawrence for a modest set that didn’t last any longer than an hour, it was clear these guys (and one girl) have climbed out of any growing pains.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have an uncommonly sweet sound – not “sweet” as in awesome, but “sweet” as in sixteen. Their two albums are appropriate for the soundtrack to a teenager’s first love, but steeped in enough musicianship to avoid ever sounding too light or sentimental. It’s not difficult to reminisce when hearing them.

Their live show the technical over the dreamy side of their music. Despite putting together simple pop ditties, they are a five-piece band, and they all have something to do for each song.

Every few songs featured a back-stepping freak-out from vocalist/guitarist Kip Berman – he’d shy away from the camera and convulse inward while hopping up and down – but other than this the stage presence of the band was pretty stiff. It’s hard to complain too much about this, though. This was a show where you could just close your eyes, sway slightly, and go on auto-pilot

The Pains put on a solid show, but they were outdone by Twin Sister. Both young bands are from New York and share a strange sense of calm; but whereas the headliner are in decidedly poppy territory, the opener hint at minimally ambient and almost spiritual. I walked in having heard maybe one song before, but was instantly sold on their very full sound. It’s difficult to figure out what exactly Twin Sister does so well, especially on a first listen, but they hit an almost chill wave zone that put everyone in a trance, without ever becoming Chill wave or Trance music. It’s just engrossing

Vocalist Andrea Estella announced at the beginning of Twin Sister’s set that this was their third show in Lawrence – make sure not to miss their fourth.

by Ian McFarland

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