REVIEW BY: Melanie Love
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/17/2010
As penance for missing these indie darlings twice in the past two months (even a free concert! Free!), I’m finally getting around to reviewing Passion Pit. Hailing from Cambridge, Massachusetts, this five-some has been quietly charting a path to danceable excellence since their first EP, 2007’s Chunk Of Change. Manners, which hit in 2009, is the group’s first full length, though the clean sparkle of their sound belies their relative newness. I don’t know why it took me so long to finally cotton to this album, though. I listened to “Eyes As Candles” for a good three months before finally tracking down the disc it came from, and that tardiness most likely stemmed from the worry that nothing would measure up to the experience of “Eyes As Candles.”
This is one of those perfect songs that you fall madly, easily in love with on first listen and then never tire of, like an unexpected summer fling that manages to last. Singer Michael Angelako’s vocals are engaging and unassumingly subtle, and paired with the shimmering synths and warm harmonies, this becomes an indelible listening experience. Meanwhile, the chorus, “Why do I always seem to need you when you’re fleeing? / Where do you go when I’m around? / What have I done, what have I lost that’s so defeating? / And have the nerve to wear the crown?” Simple, but it hits to the gut, and you barely even realize because it’s all so pretty.
And the rest of the material on this release is just as lovely and sparkling, from lead single “To Kingdom Come” to the falsetto lull and joyous electro-pop of “Sleepyhead” (initially featured on the Chunk Of Change EP). Their songs are fully fleshed out but never lose the sense of sheer ecstasy and unabashed grooviness. Meanwhile, unexpectedly successful single “The Reeling” is another hit, and the lyrics are worth a closer look under the swaths of synths and propulsive energy. “Look at me, look at me, is this the way I’ll always be?” goes the chorus, the light frothiness of the vocals belying a real struggle to connect in a fractured world. “I believe in gentle harmony / Well how I loathe all this obscenity,” Angelako’s ascertains, and it’s this push-and-pull between a love of pure, colorful beauty and reality’s foggier underbelly that lies at the heart of the album.
It’s refreshing to find music that just simply makes you happy without being as fluffy and disposable as cotton candy. Manners can sometimes fall in love with its own giddiness (see penultimate cut “Let Your Love Grow Tall” which is a bit of a cheesy sing-along), but that’s not a real fault, especially when paired with material like “Moth’s Wings” and other singles that combine a fresh lightness with a heart, bones, and flesh.
If you’re cynical, there’s probably only so much of this album that you’ll be able to take, since there’s not much variation among these eleven tracks. But if shimmer, sweetness, and substance are your thing, Passion Pit is worth taking a chance on. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll definitely be cheered.