Don’t hate Kip Berman just because he’s better than you

by Aidan Morgan


cd-daysofabandonPains of Being Pure at Heart
Days of Abandon
4 out of 5

Kip Berman –– the founder, frontman and constant member of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart –– is one of those people that all strivers of medium talent know to love but secretly despise. Berman probably wakes up with a few notes in his head, and by the time he’s showered it’s already a melody of Evan Dando-esque sweetness. Unsurprisingly, Days of Abandon (named after Elena Ferrante’s unspeakably good novel The Days of Abandonment) is nothing but one anodyne tune after another, each one constructed with care and produced with finesse. It’s joyful and maddening to hear something so effortlessly good.

Fans of TPoBPaH who loved their lo-fi debut or the massive guitar noise of Belong may not follow the band to this new sonic territory. Berman’s twee sensibilities were balanced by the fuzzbox at his foot. For Days of Abandon, Berman found new musicians and traded in the shoegaze guitar drone for a much lighter sound that recalls the music of The Smiths, Belle and Sebastian, Destroyer and other arch examples. Sometimes the reminders are jarring; “Kelly,” for example, sounds like a rearrangement of The Smiths’ “This Charming Man”.

The most noticeable change (and to my mind, a brilliant one) is the use of Jen Goma as a vocalist on “Kelly” and “Life After Life” — easily the standouts on an album full of memorable songs. I’d be down for a Pains album with Goma on the microphone full-time.

cd-littledragonLittle Dragon
Nabuma Rubberband
Loma Vista
3 out of 5

If you love Swedish pop and you’ve heard Little Dragon’s 2011 joint, Ritual Union, you’re likely a fan of the band (not to be confused with Imagine Dragons, a band that’s also popular right now, but in a different way).

Little Dragon’s new record. Nabuma Rubberband, is their fourth since 2007, and comes packed with at least a few rippers, including lead single “Klapp Klapp”. Singer Yukimi Nagano’s soulful narratives dice over twisting synth lines and steady percussion.

My opinion of this dreamy pop record was growing more nuanced all the time until I played it too many times and received an error message on the stream sent by the label. “Your maximum number of logins is reached,” it said. I’d been too busy ecstatically dancing to take many notes while listening, but from what I remember, “Cat Rider”, “Paris” and the title track are all sublime. /Jeanette Stewart

cd-lykkeliLykke Li
I Never Learn
3.5 out of 5

I Never Learn begins like a gorgeous fantasy, rolling in on a chorus of rhythmic acoustic guitars and ending as quickly as a passing thought. This is Sad Girl pop music but it’s not candy, and it’s danceable to boot. The album’s pearly introspection is perfect for grey days mooning about the house trying on  clothes you’d forgotten about.

Am I getting femme enough for you? Good. Thumb your nose at that, tough guys.

On this third album, Li flexes her songwriting muscles to great effect, wasting no time on frivolous extras. Floating between intimate acoustic guitars and electronic dance beats, the focused production and the unmasked heartbreak unify the songs into a distinct collection by a maturing artist who wasn’t afraid to say to NME “[it’s] always about me and the guilt and the shame and the hurt and the pride and the confusion of being a woman”. /Amber Goodwyn

cd-brywebbBry Webb
Free Will
Idée Fixe
4 out of 5

It’s unfortunate that the long-awaited Constantines reunion could slow the momentum of Bry Webb’s sophomore solo record. After stepping back from his role as rock frontman, Webb’s work on his own has been stark and subtle but no less tense or haunting than his Cons work.

On the follow-up to 2011’s Provider, Webb is back to making soft-spoken family-friendly folk. On Free Will, a record written for the singer’s young son, light, atmospheric drones and countrified lap steel flourishes accompany Webb’s soft acoustic work. His rough-hewn, blue-collared vocals are similarly dialed back, opting for melody over indie-rock mayhem.

It’s not all nods to dad-rock, though. Free Will has a couple of delicious bursts of noise and pedal-play throughout, glimmers of sonic meltdowns that should keep die-hard Cons fans somewhat satisfied.  /Chris Morin