Release Date: May 19, 2009
Record label: Frenchkiss
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
A little blast of euphoriaIn the last several years, the indie universe has expanded—shambling white-guy rock will always have its place, but dance music now occupies the same hipster-certified space. No new band connects the dots better than Passion Pit, a Boston-area quintet with a giddy melodic sense and an unabashed love for synth pop. Lead singer Michael Angelakos and his merry sidemen play with a verve that traces back to disco; Passion Pit’s falsetto vocals sound like Bon Iver being sampled and sped up by Kanye West.
Even if the rock kids aren't doing the standing still as much these days, indie-friendly electro-pop bands are still liable to have their own backs against the wall-- Hot Chip with their Urkel affectations, Junior Boys' overriding permafrost, Cut Copy and their unflappable cool. Despite residing on the always trustworthy Frenchkiss, Passion Pit aren't cool. Their approach to danceable rock music is more Friday night than year-end-list.
Laptop lover Michael Angelakos made an EP for his girlfriend and ended up with a record contract. Now, with a full band at his disposal, he attempts to grab more hearts with a stormy, unremittingly euphoric mix of pop both electronic and melodic. The blend is not entirely unfamiliar - anyone who knows MGMT's Oracular Spectacular will have twinges of recognition.
Euphoric, feelgood electro-pop of the indie rather than chart-topping persuasion, with the Massachusetts quartet's debut substituting lost-boy yearning for outright hedonism..
Passion Pit's mode of operation on their debut album, Manners, appears to be to juxtapose the giddiest music possible with some truly dark and self-searching lyrics. It's a classic trick that will have you singing along happily to the sound of confusion, sadness, and the torment of one man's mind. You can dig below the sweet falsetto of vocalist/songwriter Michael Angelakos, the rollicking and joyful tunes, and the glittering, shiny surfaces that the group and producer Chris Zane painstakingly create and absorb the insights and feelings of Angelakos' words or not, because the record is satisfying either way -- especially if a record that combines Animal Collective's twee-est moments, Mercury Rev's most cotton-candied jams, the paisley-fied soul of Prince, and the synth pop hookiness of New Order sounds like a good idea to you.
Now that internet buzz has made a shift from passing phase to frontline for music promotion and criticism, it feels right when a band like Passion Pit gets caught in that whirlwind. Because despite its strength, the internet is still a young music forum, and all too often how artists receive that buzz relies far too much on the hyper trying to play tastemaker instead of on the merits of the hyped music itself. But even before their debut EP, Chunk of Change, Passion Pit was building up some serious heat.
Sorry, friends, we'll have to save our summer synth-pop hate for someone other than Passion Pit. For all its glossy, soul-searching schmaltz, the band's full-length debut is a polished record full of consistently catchy hooks. [rssbreak] The keyboards on Little Secrets play out like toned-down Max Tundra blended with borderline-obnoxious school kids chanting "higher and higher and higher," while The Reeling and Sleepyhead are comfy, carefree, danceable fun.
In my favorite scene from the first season of 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan (played by Tracy Morgan) pitches a new product (The Tracy Jordan Meat Machine) to his boss Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). After Jack approves of Tracy’s product and agrees for a GE subsidiary to manufacture it, Tracy says to Jack, “Jack Donaghy, you are the best. I’m gonna make you a mixtape.
There’s one thing you can confidently say about this Massachusetts-based band’s disorienting debut: It never lacks energy. Riding a flurry of ?prerelease hype, Passion Pit have inevitably drawn comparisons to fellow electro-?rock breakouts MGMT, and Manners is similarly full of helium-infused vocals blanketed over tenacious synth-pop beats, sometimes to an exhausting ?degree. And while the midtempo tunes often venture into cheesy ’80s-pop territory, the album’s dense sound rewards repeat listens.
Does anyone else find it hard to process the fact we’re at the end of an actual full-blown decade? Maybe because of internet-begat eclecticism, maybe other reasons, but it’s hard to definitively associate the Noughties with anything so snappy as the old ‘Nineties = Britpop’ type equation; it's been way more of a general mish mash. Still, while I can’t exactly put a finger on it, Passion Pit seem like a culmination of something or other, the asexual feyness of what we may still refer to as college rock spliced with the electronic frivolity symptomatic of a period in which the guitar has found itself marginalised as cloistered indie pop tastes have broadened exponentially. And yeah, I did say 'indie pop'; I suppose PP’s debut album Manners should probably more accurately be described as electro-pop, but things really have changed in the last five years or so.