Release Date: Jul 24, 2012
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Passion Pit's 2009 debut was a hog pile of neon dance beats and helium-falsetto hooks, undercut by Michael Angelakos' endearingly heartsick lyrics. Their second disc is roomier and more varied: "Carried Away" packs an afternoon of early-Eighties MTV into three minutes, and "Take a Walk" sets lyrics about the Great Recession to stomping disco pop, displaying Angelakos' gift for making pain feel like pleasure. Listen to "Take a Walk": Related• Photos: Random Notes .
Gossamer is a haunting album if you listen closely; it is a musical and social contradiction. It is both heart-wrenchingly introspective and jubilant. And when picturing a crowd eagerly singing along, one can’t help but feel a small twinge of irony. It’s an unsettling feeling, as though the anthem of today’s youth is one of self-loathing and self-medication.
A little over halfway through “Carried Away,” the hyperventilating third track on Passion Pit’s hyperactive second album, the cooing chorus opens up into frontman Michael Angelakos singing out “We all have problems, we all have problems, we all have something to say!” The exhortation acts as a thesis for Gossamer, whose neon-bright soul appears so similar to the bubbling pop that brought Passion Pit into underground ubiquity—I can’t be the only one who’s had romance spring from arguing whether the original or remix of “Sleepyhead” was better. With Passion Pit’s second album, these confections are more confessional: the album very nearly didn’t happen—Angelakos almost killed himself. Again bringing Manners producer Chris Zane, this album is a crystallization of his internal struggle.
Here's an incomplete list of the subjects dealt with on Passion Pit's second album, Gossamer: immigration, alcoholism, economic disparity, suicide, mental illness, drugs, domestic abuse. So when Michael Angelakos sings, "I'm so self-loathing that it's hard for me to see," that should come across like a tremendous understatement. But two lines later, he cries "no one believes me, no not a single thing." That part cuts deep, since Passion Pit's 2009 debut LP, Manners, was an often dark and troubled record a lot of people chose not to take seriously due to its sugar-smacked synth pop and countless product placements.
Passion PitGossamer[Columbia; 2012]By Brendan Frank; July 20, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGGos-sa-mer. ?gä-s?-m?r, adjective: something light, delicate, or insubstantial. It should be made clear that when we speak of Passion Pit, we’re really speaking about Michael Angelakos. The big-haired, notoriously solemn 25-year-old is the frontman, songwriter, founder, and face of the Cambridge electro-poppers.
Review Summary: Passion Pit find their heart. For Michael Angelakos, the darkness has always been served cloaked in an overwhelming halo of light, the kind that doesn’t illuminate but blinds with a sort of stabbing beauty. He began Passion Pit as a sort of apology to a girlfriend tired of all his self-defeating bull***, and hid all of the subversive musings of Manners behind layers of synths and his own falsetto, pitched so high as to obliterate any easy meaning.
If cyber-chatter translated into record sales, Massachusetts five-piece Passion Pit would be up there with fellow electro-candy merchants MGMT, rather than stalling at No 51 in 2009. Who knows why they failed to catch fire? It wasn't for want of either imagination or tunes, both of which are abundantly present on their second album. Songwriter and falsetto lead vocalist Michael Angelakos probably thinks too much ("It's an album about making an album that's straining [your] relationship," he has said), and indeed his moods swing wildly – on the clattering On My Way, he's optimistic ("All these demons, I can beat'em"), but he and his girl are "heartbroken and numb" on the funky build-up of Cry Like a Ghost.
Passion Pit’s first release was a collection of songs intended as a belated Valentine's Day present to frontman Michael Angelakos’ girlfriend. Follow up full length Manners garnered attention for its juxtaposition of dark lyricism with intensely colourful melodies and hyperactive textures. But this emotional directness and lyrical darkness wasn’t immediately apparent to the casual listener – it took a concentrated immersion to move past the strikingly uber-falsetto vocals and "woah-oh-oh"-based choruses to discover the discord at the heart of those tracks.
There's a creeping sense of angst and trauma buried beneath layers upon layers of anthemic choruses, chirpy vocal harmonies, ravey synths and symphonic swells on Gossamer, a lovingly produced album that announces Passion Pit main man Michael Angelakos as a true pop heavyweight. Just as Amy Winehouse turned her battle with alcoholism into a hooky dance floor hit on Rehab, the 25-year-old singer/songwriter uses grim subject matter - boozing, pill-popping, relationship turmoil, depression and suicide - to make music that dangles perilously on the precipice of confusion and catharsis. Finger-snapping R&B jam Constant Conversations, effervescent Carried Away and Where We Belong - the stirring symphonic ballad that closes the record - mine a wide terrain of emotions and sounds that match the expansive range of Angelakos's voice.
It can be difficult at the best of times to separate what we know of an artist from their released works, especially when we are able to go online and simply read their press bio or Wikipedia entry. This is less of a problem with younger bands but can still be an issue when they get any measure of footing within the musical community. For Michael Angelakos, instigator and ever-present talking head of eletro-pop band Passion Pit, this casual and intensive notoriety came about with the bands quick ascent after releasing their critically lauded and commercially successful debut record Manners in 2009.
With their sophomore release Gossamer, Passion Pit proves to be the gift that keeps on giving. What started as the mission of mop-topped singer Michael Angelakos to wrap up a Valentine's Day musical box for a past paramour (the collection of songs that would become Passion Pit's 2008 Chunk of Change EP), the project has now become a global love affair out to steal hearts with a dashing and mysterious second album that, in many ways, bests the band's debut. .
If The Strokes made the rock’n’roll ideal real again, and The Rapture reinvented dancing as an alt-imperative, it was the holy triptych of chart-botherers Klaxons, MGMT and Passion Pit who restored pop to its rightful position as a dream machine, rescuing it from the ladrock authenticity police and ’90s ironists like Beck, who demystified pop by scoffing at the pre-Cobain ideal of actually believing the lie, the illusion. When the illusion is uncannily and perfectly realised, they call it ‘pure pop’. And when pure pop is taken to its logical extreme – rendered hyper-real and assembled entirely from love, Lego and ear candy – what you get is Passion Pit, still fighting the good fight with ‘Gossamer’.
Michael Angelakos may not have been the first bedroom pop producer to set the internet ablaze and follow up with a masterful debut, but he’s likely the one we all know and adore the most. “Sleepyhead” remains a contender for “Twentysomething Anthem of Forever,” and songs from 2009’s Manners probably define at least part of every night you spent out in college. Passion Pit’s synth-rock debut album was distinctly young, full of vigor, a deranged celebration riding its own wave of cruelly infectious major-key hooks, hybrid electro/R&B beats and Angelakos’s strained, urgent falsetto.
Three years ago, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos closed Manners with wavering last words on “Seaweed Song”, singing: “Nobody knows you the way you know you/ But I think I do/ Well I thought I knew/ Yeah, I thought I knew.” It was a heartfelt send-off, glistening with the same syrupy angst that Robert Smith bottled and sold in his vineyard de goth decades previous, but also very telling. It framed an indecisive yet deliberately honest songwriter whose complicated demeanor remained submerged in a murky abyss. On his long-awaited followup, Gossamer, Angelakos rushes to the surface, experiencing the bends in the process.
Bloggers were early adopters, colleges made them a staple, and critics swear by them live, but you could be forgiven if the fuss over Passion Pit continues to mystify you. Not that it was any surprise when Columbia swooped them up after only an EP: the Boston quintet’s brand of loud, lush, lovesick, shout-along electropop has all the high fructose gratification of Coca Cola, and about as much nuance. It’s sensitive like emo, but danceable like Gary Glitter, which means it’s catnip for the kids and so, too, for the majors.
Passion Pit’s debut, Manners, was a world-conquering sonic arsenal on the level of Coldplay’s Parachutes, rife with sing-along dance-pop ammo that peaked with the wonderfully dizzy anthem “Sleepyhead.” Yet despite Passion Pit mastermind Michael Angelakos’s songwriting often striking a careful balance between Top 40 appeal and indie experimentation, Manners was hardly calculating. If anything, there was a sense that the album’s synth-drenched exuberance was the result of the band’s self-fandom: Essentially, Passion Pit wrote and performed songs that they themselves wanted to hear. The Cambridge crew’s follow-up, Gossamer, doesn’t quite boast the same energy level.
PASSION PIT “Gossamer” (Columbia) Shiny, happy sounds define the music of Passion Pit. On “Manners,” its debut full-length album, released in 2010, synthesizers shimmered and pealed with lustrous timbres, while dance beats pulsed with tireless programmed jubilation behind Michael Angelakos’s falsetto voice. “Gossamer,” the second Passion Pit album, adds both new gizmos and a more human touch: dizzying electronic stutters, wavery manipulated voices, chiming glockenspiels, stately pianos, female backup singers, twittering woodwinds and elegiac string sections.
I’m not cool. I used to be, I think, for a while, back when I worked in a record store, but that was by proxy and a long time ago, when those things still existed. But I’m no longer down with the kids. I haven’t listened to the radio intentionally in years; I get the majority of my recommendations from a small group of trusted websites and have no idea as to what constitutes 'popular' music nowadays.
Gossamer is, besides being the chosen title of the album in question, another name for spider silk. It’s pretty versatile stuff, and spiders, the clever little blighters, can single-handedly weave it into all manner of things; intricate webs, trip wires, parachutes, nests, hammocks, rope ladders (alright, not the last two, but the point still stands). ‘Gossamer’, then, seems the perfect title for Passion Pit’s second album, an intricate sound net, pieced meticulously together by the equally versatile Michael Angelakos – frontman, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist rolled into one.
An impressive and varied second album, but one underpinned by noticeable troubles. Lou Thomas 2012 Michael Angelakos is a troubled man. This summer the Passion Pit frontman has spent time in a New York state mental hospital and cancelled six tour dates. Undoubtedly he’s a talented man, too – he wrote and co-produced all the songs on Gossamer and excellent debut album Manners – but one wonders at what cost does inspiration come? As with the greatest tunes from the first album, such as The Reeling, there is a sense of joyous mania in the booming hugeness of some of the best songs here.
In light of recent revelations, it’d be impossible to ignore lead vocalist and songwriter Michael Angelakos’s mental health when discussing the Passion Pit we’ve grown to know and love. For years the helium-pitched vocalist has—unbeknownst to anyone but his loved ones and closest friends—buried his battle with bipolar disorder deep down inside to avoid embarrassment and labeling. But recently, he dropped that guard.
Like 2009's Manners, Passion Pit's sophomore outing is a fat thunderclap of soulful, echo-boom electro-pop that's as poisonous as it is precious, pounding out twinkling summer dance hymns that frame Michael Angelakos' elastic falsetto against a buttermilk sky that’s secretly teeming with ominous storm clouds. With Gossamer, Angelakos' angst is pushed even further to the forefront, revealing an artist who doesn't just moonlight as a professional demon wrestler, but puts in a full day's work. Despite the flurry of pre-release woes (canceled shows, lengthy hospital stays, and the revelation of a botched, early suicide attempt, the latter of which is examined in great detail on the visceral and vulnerable closer "Where We Belong"), Gossamer is a triumph of youthful, bipolar tenacity that filters its manic energy through a cosmopolitan prism of pop avenues, from silky neo-soul ("Constant Conversation") to shimmery Jónsi-inspired synth pop ("Take a Walk"), the latter of which takes a third-person approach, weaving a tale of a husband and father's desperation in trying to make sense of his own actions in the midst of a recession's relentless, bloodied backhand.