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.

Best tunes of 2001: #17 Camera Obscura “Eighties fan”

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I stumbled upon Camera Obscura while on the internets and saw their name in connection with Belle And Sebastian, a band I’ve been into quite heavy for years. I listened to their second album, 2003’s “Underachievers try harder”, first and worked backwards.

You can definitely here the B&S influence on the Glasgow-based indie pop band’s debut, “Biggest bluest hi-fi”, especially since it was produced by Stuart Murdoch, but they definitely are their own band. Led by the delicate to the point of crumbling vocals of Tracyanne Campbell, Camera Obscura’s is even more retro sounding, harkening back to girl groups crying over broken hearts in the 60s.

“You say your life will be the death of you
Tell me, do you wash your hair in honeydew
And long for all of them to fall in love with you
But they never do”

“Eighties fan” starts off with a drum beat you’re sure you’ve before a hundred times, hinting at something upbeat, but Camera Obscura doesn’t go there. Instead, they run up crying to their bedroom and slam the door. They put something sad on the turntable and crank the volume, ignoring the shouts of their mother below. They pull out the tiny bottle of vodka that an older teenager had procured for them and sip lightly but still coughing and sputtering. There curse the name of their more attractive and hipper older sister for catching the eye of their cute boy they had a crush on and cry, tears streaming everywhere. And… well… you get the picture.

An incredible first single off the debut album that started it all.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2000: #4 Belle And Sebastian “Legal man”

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At some point in the early 2000s, the full season box sets of Gilmore Girls began being released on DVD and my wife, Victoria and I bought them and watched them all, as they were released, one season at a time. I’m not going to go into the wherefores of why I enjoyed and got hooked on the show right now but let’s just say that I did. The reason I mention this idiosyncrasy of mine this morning has to do with one of my favourite scenes that occurred at the end of episode 14, season 2 (no, I don’t have them memorized, I had to look it up).

Lane, the best friend of Rory (the younger of the Gilmore girls), is the Korean-American daughter of first generation immigrants, who is a music fanatic and snob. During the episode in question, she is grounded by her strict, traditional mother, something that happens frequently during the show for several reasons but in this case, it is problematic because the new Belle And Sebastian single is due to be released and she simply must be one of the first to hear it. Rory, being the friend that she is, procures a copy for her and orchestrates a drop off as Lane and her mother are walking through town, an intricate plot involving the town weirdo Kirk running interference while Rory’s mother’s employee, Michel, posing as a jogger, drops the disc in lane’s bag (watch the scene here). It’s hilariously like something out of Mission Impossible and all the while, the first part of “Legal man”, the single in question, is playing as soundtrack, lending the scene a 60s spy movie feeling.

Belle And Sebastian, as you are hopefully aware, are an indie pop collective out of Glasgow, Scotland that formed in 1996 and that were so prolific, they released two full-length albums in their first year of existence. The following year, they released three EPs of songs that never appeared on their LPs, something they would become known for doing. They also became known for twee-inspired chamber pop, whose witty and biting lyrics acted as counterbalance to the light tone of the music. Numerous releases and personnel changes later, B&S are still a going concern.

“Legal man” is the title track off another one of those standalone singles/EPs that I mentioned above, only being available on that release until the song and its two B-sides were included on the “Push barman to open old wounds” compilation. It is two and half minutes of frenzied bongo drumming (by Snow Patrol’s Jonny Quinn), snarling sitars, whirling hammond, and fun backing vocals by Rosanne Suarez and The Maisonettes. As you can imagine, with all those ingredients swirling in the lava lamp, “Legal man” is a retro and mod revivalist romp that spells magic on the dance floor. So get out your beach blanket and let’s boogie!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.