Review Summary: Kindred certainly sounds like Passion Pit but it lacks the ingredients necessary to stay in rotation once summer is in rear view.
One of the elements that put Passion Pit’s sophomore LP Gossamer
on the musical radar was the inner turmoil expressed by front man Michael Angelakos within (and outside of) his music. On the surface it was bright and bubbly – all the expected attributes of a Passion Pit record. Angelakos was at his most sonically adventurous, utilizing synthesizers and vocal melodies in fresher, more appealing ways than on debut Manners
. But underneath its colorful exterior were the confessions of a man battling bipolar disorder during his upward momentum in the music industry. It provided an album that would have normally been wrote off as yet another "feel good" summer pop album with a healthy dose of gravitas. As a result, Gossamer
retained relevancy well beyond its release. Despite its lyrical darkness, Gossamer’s
syrupy, playful sound still managed to garner more commercial success than ever with singles like “Take a Walk” and “Carried Away” winding up in TV advertisement jingles and translating to an exciting live atmosphere for the duration of its tour cycle.
This duality between fun and energetic synth pop with layers of lyrical strife that Passion Pit have previously displayed has unfortunately been replaced by a mostly straightforward synth pop affair on their latest LP Kindred
. On the surface, it sounds much like your typical Passion Pit record. Exuberant choruses" Check. Bouncy melodies" Check. It’s all here. Unfortunately, the lyrics here tell a much less interesting story than on past outings. Additionally, the unique ways in which Passion Pit utilized synthesizers on Gossamer
has been stripped away in favor of a more traditional pop aesthetic. The result is an album that is weighed down to a certain degree by its own lack of personality. Kindred
certainly sounds like Passion Pit but it lacks the charisma necessary to stay in rotation once summer is in rear view.
deals mostly with attempting to move on from the darkness that once dominated Angelakos' life prior to Gossamer
. Whether it be on "Lifted Up" where he's talking about his wife's angelic qualities or on "Whole Life Story" where he's apologizing for the scrutiny placed on her after spilling his guts on Gossamer
. There are some religious references littered about on tracks like "My Brother Taught Me How to Swim" in which he ties these references into a personal childhood memory. If Kindred
makes anything clear, it’s that Angelakos is in a better place than he was three years ago. And while it’s nice to hear he's doing better, his songwriting does suffer to an extent because of it.
That’s not to say that anything on Kindred
is bad per se, just not on par with previous affairs. “Lifted Up” is a joyous cacophony of twinkly synth passages, a bombastic chorus, and some intriguing “barking” vocal effects that put a new spin on the “whoa-ohs” of many staple summer anthems. Angelakos’ lyrics on the track are hopeful and triumphant, with lines like “Lifted off the ground, / I took your hands and pulled you down.”
“Whole Life Story” is a bit more subdued but no less sugary with its clapping percussion and euphoric synths. Angelakos’ vocal melodies here harken back to some of the high pitched sing-a-longs on Manners
. “Where the Sky Hangs” is a less interesting “Constant Conversations” but still might be the best track here with its snappy, infectious melody.
really stumbles is in its second half on songs like “Looks Like Rain,” which attempts to be an insightful take on a traditional nursery rhyme but ends up coming off corny as hell. Or on "Dancing on the Grave" which is just a little too tranquil to be engaging. The album ends on a peculiar note with the fully autotuned "Ten Feet Tall" that sounds like it was pulled directly from the "New Slaves" outro on Yeezus.
The only unbearable moment on the album comes on “Until We Can’t” where Angelakos delivers an atrociously ham-fisted “Let’s Go!” in the chorus with some stadium-quality synths blaring behind him. It's an anthemic statement meant to be a rousing crowd-pleaser but ultimately fails to coax more than a palm to the face. Seriously, "Until We Can't" might be one of the worst songs of 2015.
works just fine as a handful of summer anthems to blast in your car with the windows down on a gorgeous day. It’s shameless, candy-coated bliss that could have been great but settles for fairly decent. Unfortunately, even the most triumphant moments on Kindred
end up sounding artificial. Much like the formulas used in soda pop or your favorite processed treat, it tastes good but ultimately fails to provide any nourishment. Ironically, for a band calling themselves "Passion Pit," a little more passion is exactly what this album would have greatly benefited from.