When The Pains of Being Pure at Heart debuted in 2009, the band endeared instantly. A song like “Young Adult Friction” felt wide-eyed and wistful, vividly realized and alive with youth. The tracks on Days of Abandon, the New York City act’s third album, are aged and exhausted in comparison, sleepy little getaways squatting on acres of sound long occupied by Belle & Sebastian.
The record’s stronger second half partly compensates for its listless start. “Eurydice” stands out as a legitimate pop single, full of gentle longing and loss. Yet both Nick Cave and Arcade Fire have performed better art rock takes on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, and the track still suffers from the same aesthetic gutlessness that permeates most of the album. “Until the Sun Explodes” fares better as a brief nova-burst of twee energy.
Perhaps a cleaner, more naked production approach makes Days of Abandon feel less rapturous and more ordinary. Though the soft duel between male and female vocals is warm and lovely, it never takes itself to the driving heights it should. The guitars no longer risk distorted plunges into garage rock territory. Lyrical angst aside, the songs are limp and de-fanged, too weak to deliver the ecstatic thrills The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are capable of.