james debate
james debate

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Genre Indie Pop
Label Columbia Records
Producers Chris Zane, Michael Angelakos, Benny Blanco, Alex Aldi

passion pit kindred new album 2015 gossamer manners sleepyhead

With Passion Pit it has always been the case that the story behind the band is as interesting as the music. The romantic origin story goes that sole band member Michael Angelakos wrote his first EP, Chunk of Change, on his laptop in a college dorm room. Originally intended as a gift for his then girlfriend, it quickly went viral all over the world, in particular his first smash hit Sleepyhead. A record deal soon followed, and Angelakos assembled a back up band with whom to go touring. But then there's the dark side to Passion Pit; the psychological issues that have plagued Angelakos, extreme bi-polar disorder which culminated in his attempted suicide.

It's these extremes that most characterise Passion Pit's unique sound; over-the-top, manic joy contrasted with darkness and introspection. Songs like Sleepyhead and The Reeling which can't decide if they want to throw their hands in the air and dance or tear their hair out in angst. Bittersweet longing in Seaweed Song, tracks like Make Light which sound deliriously happy but peppered with insecurity and deep-rooted sadness. There's nothing else in the world that sounds quite like it.

Angelakos describes Passion Pit's debut album Manners as the expression of his confusion, and it shows in its cryptic, evocative lyrics and its surreal, bi-polar music. Sophomore album Gossamer is more intensely focused, with songs that very clearly discuss everything from political concerns to bi-polar disorder and even Angelakos' attempted suicide.

This new album, Kindred, is something a bit different. Angelakos is in the best shape he has ever been, happy, well adjusted, well groomed, in a happy, stable marriage. Kindred is an album of happiness, relief.

This is best reflected in the breathtaking lead single Lifted Up (1985), an ode to Angelakos' wife (born in 1985) whom Angelakos credits as playing a big part in his recovery. It's a fitting subject for the most powerful song on the album. The video, meanwhile, depicts a rosy, practically glowing scene of a young child at what appears to be a family holiday dinner. The saccharine follow up single Where the Sky Hangs is a simple, laid back love story, with a video showing two young companions lying on the grass watching the sky, smiling and laughing.

The new direction is clear. These songs are celebrations, packed full of nostalgia, joy, intended to elicit all the good things in the World. Stark contrast to Passion Pit's earlier work.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. The Ephemeric is a fairly happy individual, who likes artistic works that celebrate life's warm spots. If Angelakos wants this new album to be a roof raising party then fantastic. Indeed Lifted Up is a phenomenal song, a perfect embodiment of the new Passion Pit that sounds just as out of this world as anything the band has done previously. Unfortunately the rest of the album does not follow suit.

That's not to say that Kindred is a bad album, it's not. But compared to Passion Pit's earlier work it sounds surprisingly languid, pedestrian, dare we say it, uninspired?

For the most part Kindred strikes a decidedly slower pace than past albums. But there are plenty of solid songs here, like Where the Sky Hangs, Until We Can't (Let's Go), and All I Want. Fine songs, yet strangely all sound so predictable, lacking in the Passion Pit edge, like a de-clawed cat.

Until We Can't (Let's Go) is catchy as hell, but it sounds like someone imitating Passion Pit. It's the mania of Passion Pit but without the deliciously seedy undertones. All I Want is pleasant enough, but it sounds like it could have been written by any other band in the world. Then there are songs like My Brother Taught Me How to Swim, again a good pop song, but one which sounds like it could have been constructed out of clips taken from other, better Passion Pit songs.

There are still moments of the trademark brilliance we've come to expect in tracks like Five Foot Ten and its counterpoint which closes the album, a duo which serve as a showcase for Passion Pit's general transition. Meanwhile Whole Life Story is a wonderful little pop song and a moment of genuinely distinctive songwriting. Sadly in so short an album these infrequent sparks ultimately provide little to satiate listeners.

Ultimately what we have is a far too short album which is just a little too insistently sugary, and yet lacking in the fire that made previous albums so unforgettable. A solid collection of pop songs, but one which stacks up poorly against the impossibly high standard of the work by which it is preceded.

Must Listen :
Lifted Up (1985)
Five Foot Ten
Whole Life Story
Where the Sky Hangs

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