The Pains Of Being Pure at Heart, "Belong"

The 2009 self-titled debut from Brooklyn indie darling the Pains of Being Pure at Heart tends to bring out a polarized reaction: Fans adore it, but others find it overly twee and reverent for the '80s and '90s indie bands that so obviously inspired it. But both camps will agree that it didn't even hint at "Belong," a startlingly confident, poised and powerful rock album that could well vault the Pains of Being Pure at Heart into the big time. A key element in this transformation is production/ mixing team Flood and Alan Moulder (Nine Inch Nails, U2, PJ Harvey, My Bloody Valentine, Sigur Rós, the Smashing Pumpkins). But the sound isn't the only thing arena-sized on "Belong." The band has pulled on some boots and leather pants (figuratively speaking), toning down the twee and slowing down the tempos, making the hooks bigger and letting the riffs linger, particularly on the anthemic "Even in Dreams," the sunshine burst of the title track and the heartstring-tugging closer "Strange." The 10-track set barely has a weak moment and actually ends too soon. It's like '90s alt-rock had a child who suddenly grew up beautiful.