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Cinema Hearts frontwoman Caroline Weinroth was a theater major in college, and when it came time to name her band’s second album, she looked to the world of musical theater for inspiration. Burned and Burnished is a riff on a line from The Fantasticks, the world’s longest-running musical.
In that show, two fathers fake a feud so that their children will fall in love. They plot a mock abduction, hoping that the boy will save the girl and end up together, which they do, by the end of Act I. But in between acts, as the fathers and their children are frozen in a happy tableau, the narrator explains, “For the story is not ended/ and the play is never done/ Until we’ve all of us been burned a bit/ And burnished by—the sun!” Their happiness doesn’t last, of course: when the ruse is revealed, the couple breaks up and spends the second act learning about heartache and the harsh realities of the real world.
On the band’s 2016 Valentine’s Day gift, Feels Like Forever, Cinema Hearts sounded like a dusty memory of sock-hop pop. With a DIY sheen, Weinroth (and her brother and bassist, Erich Weinroth, and her friend and drummer, James Adelsberger) mixed doo-wop, surf rock, and ’60s girl group pop, singing lyrics heavy with youthful ennui, about waiting for the spring semester to turn to summer; about yearning for bad boy love; about how parents just don’t understand.
Since the release of the album, Weinroth graduated from George Mason University, and her tentative steps into adulthood are cataloged on their second album. Weinroth and Cinema Hearts have been burned a bit and burnished by the sun, as it were, and the resulting record is tighter, punchier and sharper, while maintaining the Wall of Sound nostalgia and pristine pop songwriting of their first album.
When taking Burned and Burnished for a spin, the band’s growth is apparent immediately. It kicks off with a big pop anthem, “Fender Factory,” that’s accented with background vocals, handclaps, and a surf solo. Better yet, it takes the feminist attitude of Feels Like Forever highlight “I Want You (But I Don’t Need You)” and applies it to the type of mansplaining that women face in guitar shops (“doesn’t make me want to buy a Strat, when you talk to me like that”), a specific example that speaks to a more general experience, surely. The fun continues on a song that updates a pop staple—discovering infidelity—for the millennial age: “I Saw Her (In Your Spotify).”
Weinroth doubles-down on the retro melodies and au courant lyrics of “I Saw Her” on “Loose Love,” an ode to summer hookups on which she sings, “my wrist hurts and I can’t sleep, spent all night scrolling through your feed.” Her voice is well-suited for Morrissey-ian melodrama (“don’t get too devoted, don’t get too attached, you aren’t the first one and you won’t be the last”) and it really soars in the bridge and final chorus. The songwriting here seems more mature; if anything, “Fender Factory” and “I Saw Her” are too tight—neither breaks the two-minute mark despite deserving more of your time.
The most burnt-and-burnished offerings close the album: there’s “To The Boy Who Broke My Heart,” a dirge of a slow dance that adds a healthy helping of fuzz and a pristine guitar solo to the mix, and “Cherish,” a reverb-heavy tribute to loves that don’t last (it’s also included as an instrumental). And even though the songs are about heartbreak, they still have the edge that Weinroth brings to these well-worn topics; her protagonist seems to emerge stronger from the experience. That seems true of the band, as well: whatever ups-and-downs have informed this record have left Cinema Hearts wiser and ready for whatever the world serves up next.