Best tunes of 2011: #18 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart “Heart in your heartbreak”

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For a while in the early 2010s, I was completely enamoured with twee and indie pop. Something about the precious quirkiness and often upbeat sound really appealed to me at that time. In my attempts to track down everything I could and trace my way back through the genre, I found my way to the label Slumberland Records. And well, my mass consumption of all the bands on their roster led me to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

The group was formed in 2007 by Kip Berman and a bunch of friends while living and working in New York after college. Their first two albums were released by the original lineup of Berman, Alex Naidus, Peggy Wang, and Kurt Feldman but after that, the band disintegrated some and nowadays, it is Berman’s solo project.

The second album released under the Pains moniker was 2011’s “Belong”, the final release on Slumberland, and was produced and mixed by Flood and Alan Moulder, two very well known names in the alt rock world. It was a critical darling, mixing the precious feelings of twee with reverb drenched shoegaze noise.

“Heart in your heartbreak” was one of the singles released in advance of said album. It’s got a peppy beat and and post-punk bassline. You can feel in the Eighties style, singalong chorus, a cheeriness covering up a high school sadness and teen angst that we can all identify with.

“She was the heart in your heartbreak
She was the miss in your mistake
And no matter what you take
You’re never going to forget”

It is a song for winter, for gathering yourself up in your coziest, heavy sweater with a hot mugga and remembering the warmth of summer, when love seemed possible and all dreams were alive, instead of sleeping under piles of snow. Yeah, “Heart in your heartbreak” is certainly the cause for wistful smiles and plenty of yearnings of yesterday.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

Vinyl love: Stars “In our bedroom after the war”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Stars
Album Title: In our bedroom after the war
Year released: 2007
Details: Black vinyl, 2 x 180 gram

The skinny: After the brilliance of their third record, “Set yourself on fire“, I was firmly set among those wildly anticipating the next record. Canadian indie popsters Stars released “In our bedroom after the war” to digital stores the day after it was completed in an attempt to foil the leakers and pirates and then was issued physically two months later. If there was to be a complaint to be made about this fourth record, it would only be that it didn’t venture too far afield from the template of its predecessor… but I wouldn’t call that a bad thing. It is more ornate and literate chamber pop, calling to mind The Smiths and The Beautiful South, but perhaps slightly more slanted towards the dancefloor.

Standout track: “Take me to the riot”

100 best covers: #81 The Pogues “Dirty old town”

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Ok. So it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted one for this series, well over three months for sure. And this is another that I didn’t know was a cover for the longest time. The Pogues recorded “Dirty old town” for their second album, 1985’s “Rum, sodomy, and the lash”, and it’s here that I’ve heard and sung along to these words countless times.

It was originally written in 1949 by actor, poet, playwright and songwriter, Ewan MacColl, who is, incidentally, the father of Kirsty MacColl. (I’m sure you all see the connection.) He wrote it for one his plays, “Landscape with chimneys”, as an ode of sorts to Salford, the town of his birth. He later recorded it in 1952 and it has become a folk classic, apparently covered dozens and dozens of times. Perhaps it was most famously done by The Dubliners in 1976, whose version (check it here) was upbeat and raucous, with banjos, fiddles, and shout along vocals, and likely influenced that of The Pogues.

MacColl’s original, at least the recording in the video below, is by contrast scratchy and hissing and full of cobwebs, sounding forgotten in the darkest corner of your grandparents’ attic. It is a soft strum on the guitars, almost an afterthought to the sorrowful vocals, MacColl warbling all over the place. It is only 2 minutes 45 but feels a whole lot longer.

The Pogues’ cover is also sad but decidedly more upbeat. It is not hoarse and roaring like The Dubliners do it, nor as punk-influenced as other tunes in The Pogues back catalogue. It is a song to sway to with a frothy pint in hand, the band off in the pub’s corner, a harmonica crying sadly, the mandolin waffling and sniffling, the fiddles creaking like a squeaky old door, and Pogues’ vocalist Shane MacGowan slurring roughly, as he is wont to do. All in all, there’s plenty of memories and regret in each note and tap on the drums.

So in sum, I think all three of the versions here are great but the one by The Pogues is my preference. Thoughts?

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.