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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Passion Pit Creates Danceable Indie Rock in their Debut Album

Don't be surprised if you begin hearing people talk about Passion Pit, an indie electronic band on the rise who has been compared to MGMT but certainly has the creativity, genius and charm to create its own distinct sound. With the high-pitched and passionate falsetto of the lead vocals, munchkin-like backup vocals, insightful yet concise, relatable and fairly accessible lyrics, exuberant upbeat '80's sound and the electronic sound effects and intriguing instrumentation to back it up, Passion Pit's debut album "Manners" has the potential to rank as one of the best alternative albums of the year.

The electronic band formed in Cambridge, Mass., in 2007 and consists of members Michael Angelakos on lead vocals and keyboards, Ian Hultquist on keyboards and guitar, Ayad Al Adhamy on synth and samples, Jeff Apruzzese on bass and Nate Donmoyer on drums. The group mixes electronic synth pop with a disco sound and dissonant hooks to create a sub-genre of indie rock one might refer to as dance rock or electro pop, making the band appealing to '80's pop, indie rock, disco, electronic and modern pop fans alike.

"Manners" opens with the keyboard-ridden "Make Light," which may not be the strongest track on the album but still has the lively drums, warm synth effects and keyboard riffs, and falsetto to create a danceable rock atmosphere.

The synth pop tune "Little Secrets," has a sharp bass line and displays some of Passion Pit's insightful yet accessible lyrics: "Let this be our little secret / No one needs to know we're feeling/Higher and higher and higher/ ... /But I feel alive and I feel it in me/Up and up I keep on climbing/Higher and higher and higher ..." They double up on the "higher and higher" part of the chorus, involving an elementary school choir in the mix. The kiddie choir may be considered behind the curve but certainly makes the band more endearing to its fans.

"Moth's Wings," a more subdued track, has a more grandiose atmospheric sound akin to U2 and includes more acoustic instruments as well as synth-piano chords. The album's first single, "The Reeling," is a great party-ready dance number and proves to its fans that underneath Passion Pit's upbeat optimistic sound often lies a darker message: "Now I pray that somebody will quickly come and kidnap me/Oh no, oh no/And everyday I lie awake and pray to God today's the day/Oh no, oh no." Much like "Little Secrets," the message is delivered with help from an elementary school choir, contrasting darker themes with a sense of youthfulness and innocence.

One might confuse "Eyes As Candles" for an '80's pop tune until the distinctive falsetto of lead singer Angelakos comes in, as the song is a softer melody than the others and combines hand clapping, synth-piano and a soft drum beat for the intro. Nonetheless, the band includes many electronic sound effects more characteristic of the year 2009, letting its audience know that yes, they are still in the correct era. "Swimming in the Flood" has a much slower beat and a smoother sound, adding variety to the album.

"Folds in Your Hands" brings the focus back to the dance floor and has synth riffs that might remind one of French alternative band Phoenix, who similarly borrows much of their sound from '80's pop. "To Kingdom Come" has more of a '80's rock sound, complete with guitar, drums and horns, which are part of the wide array of instrumental resources that Angelakos utilizes throughout the album.

For the new album, the band mastered "Sleepyhead," which had been the indie band's first hit from their 2008 debut EP, "Chunk of Change." The result is a song complete with overly dissonant synth riffs, hyperemotional and high-pitched lead vocals, munchkin-like backup vocals and incomprehensible poetic lyrics: "And you said it was like fire around the brim/Burning solid burning thin the burning rim/ ... /You were one inch from the edge of this bed/I dragged you back a sleepyhead." While the components of "Sleepyhead" may not sound ideal, the combination of these qualities manages to work in its favor.

"Manners" may borrow much of its sound from '80's pop and indie rock, but "Clash" magazine has a different take on the LP, saying that: "At its most adventurous, "Manners" sounds like little else - a pop record that exists in a world of its own, carving a sub-genre niche which only fits their expansive, tonally decadent material."

Not only does Passion Pit know how to produce a well-orchestrated creative album, but they also know how to deliver energetic, well-received live performances and have opened for such bands as Death Cab for Cutie and Girl Talk. The electro pop band performed at Lollapalooza this summer with good reviews, proving that they could excel in a festival setting.