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. Manners
was a fun, wispy listen, a batch of sugary synth confectionary and tie-dye festival sing-a-longs, but whether “Sleepyhead” was a song about the despair of heartbreak or a colossally bad trip, it remained a pretty dark tune, major chords and that irresistible hook be damned. I find it hard to believe that Gossamer
isn’t a tongue-in-cheek reply to all those who dismissed Passion Pit as another MGMT-of-the-month back in 2009, very enjoyable sure but oh so painfully thin
is airy like cotton candy from the summer fair and delicate like an overgrown web at a lakeside cabin, but for the first time there’s a substance to all the exceedingly fine, vibrant textures on display here, something that gives but doesn’t break.
That underlying discord that has always been at the heart of everything Passion Pit have done is still here, well drenched in the sunniest pop this side of fun., yet where Manners
obfuscated everything, Gossamer
navigates a precise path through some seriously shaky emotional terrain. It leaves little open to interpretation even as the layers and tracks pile on and on in glorious Technicolor. Most of the credit has to go to Angelakos, never one to shy away from his own feelings and still situated high and crystalline in the mix but now more assured and more conventional, lending a depth and clarity to his lyrics that had been absent for far too long. His moods are uneasy and unpredictable, as quick to declare that he’s ready to get back on track and quicker still to indulge in therapeutic melodrama. “Take A Walk” is most likely the catchiest song ever written about fiscal irresponsibility in the current debt crisis, told with a straight face and all the more desperate for it. The best thing here, the white-boy R&B of “Constant Conversations,” is one of several songs that takes an unflinching look at Angelakos’ alcohol problem: “Now you’re standing in the kitchen, and you’re pouring out my drink / well there’s a very obvious difference, and it’s that one of us can think / if there’s a bump in the road yeah you fix it, but for me I’ll just run off the road.” It’s intense, personal stuff, at times waxing dangerously close to self-pity, yet it juxtaposes sharply and effectively with the auditory ebullience that threatens to swallow it up but never does. Given how successful Passion Pit are in making Gossamer
sound absolutely massive, this is no small victory.
Passion Pit had already taken the electro-pop craze to its logical conclusion, sounds built to fill an arena and a veritable army of neon-lit effects and endless multi-tracking pushing against the speakers en route to a bigger, better payoff down onto the next chorus. Gossamer
, however, will leave you wondering how Manners
can now sound so tiny. That trademark Passion Pit sound – the warped vocals, that frenzied stroke of a drum solo, effects dropping in and out like a goddamn musical Whack-a-Mole, fast four-on-the-floor bubbling underneath a Millennium Falcon
-sized engine of synths – is in fine form here, no better than on prototypical tune “I’m Alright.” As Gossamer
glides on, however, Passion Pit expand on what they’ve mastered – that unique brand of energetic dance-pop combining the best traits of straightforward pop music with the eye-dilating euphoria of rave music – by amping up everything: the choruses, the emotion, the enormous hooks.
There’s a sequence of songs here, beginning with “Cry Like A Ghost’s” anguished “Sylvia” refrain all the way through to the soaring, dreamlike chorus of “Love Is Greed,” where you think this is it: here is the peak where the band cannot just go any higher. They are cresting onto some brilliant hill where everything is kaleidoscopes and keyboards and over-saturated colors and oh-my-god crippling neurosis has never sounded this good and it’s almost too damn much. But everything, Angelakos’ fey vocals and that outsized production, all one hundred and twenty tracks of it, sounds so wonderfully pure that it’s hard not to get swept up with them all. And then, of course, they go higher.
is huge, bombastic, and all over the place, spraying synths and outsized choruses like confetti over some deranged future-pop festival. Gossamer
is also remarkably personal, pockmarked with Angelakos’ unmistakable sentiments, the nasty demons and the sympathetic dreams. It’s an unusual paradox that has become Passion Pit’s singular advantage, finally bringing those ignored lyrics level with their sunburnt melodic instincts and turning all those ugly human qualities into something to be celebrated. It’s pop music in its purest form, totally unhindered and perhaps a bit outrageous, devoid of any self-conscious irony, just simply: listen to my story, and sing along.