Album Review: Passion Pit | Kindred
In July of 2012, Passion Pit frontman and mastermind Michael Angelakos opened up to Pitchfork Media about his mental illness: chronic depression, bipolar disorder, and dissociative psychosis. While dark themes and pained lyrics had appeared on Passion Pit’s earlier material, Angelakos’s revealing interviews helped define the motivations behind their discography. The band seemed to be in flux. Their drummer left. After the Constant Conversations EP, Passion Pit disappeared. Then, in January, out of nowhere, they released “Lifted Up (1985)”. A soaring stadium-pop track, “Lifted Up” is an ode to Angelakos’s wife, Kristy. It signaled an evolution in Passion Pit’s thematic direction. If their debut Manners was the beginning of a downward spiral, and the follow-up Gossamer was rock bottom, then new release Kindred is the recovery, stemming from the power of love.
The first impression new Passion Pit listeners have, positive or negative, is of Angelakos’s fragile, insistent falsetto. One can imagine the child on the cover of Kindred singing the lyrics, like in “Five Foot Ten (I)”: on the chorus it is sung that “All alone, I wanna be all alone, with you.” It’s a clear sequel to Gossamer‘s wonderful “Carried Away”, with it’s driving pop beat and major-chord synthesizers. I personally love Angelakos’s voice, but it can occasionally be off-putting. Take “Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)”; what lyrically is a sweet, sappy love song is almost difficult to listen to in the chorus and bridge, as the vocals nearly leave Angelakos’s range.
This is Passion Pit’s most clearly defined “love” album. What has become the norm for the band’s discography is to include songs that are essentially filler, allowing for the highs of the pop masterpieces. In this album, tracks like “Dancing on the Graves” and “Looks Like Rain” take that position, failing to bolster the weaker second half of the album. The most interesting track on the album, by far, is the closer, “Ten Feet Tall (II)”. It’s actually pretty hilarious, and seems to either address Columbia Records or fans of Passion Pit themselves, confronting the desire for more Passion Pit. As Angelakos sings, “These motherfuckers with their goddamn woes/ … saying I better sing these songs“. It’s all sung over a stadium-rock instrumental and with Auto-tuned(!!) vocals.
As usual, Passion Pit is at their best at the two extremes of the pop spectrum: subdued grooves and impossibly bright production. “Where The Sky Hangs” reminds me of a more relaxed “Constant Conversations”, which is Passion Pit’s best song. It’s the one track on this record that clearly says “80s” to me, with it’s acoustic bass and resolved chords. It’s an extremely pleasant track to listen to. In contrast, the soaring “Lifted Up” sells the year 1985 really well (“1985 was a good year!“).
Unfortunately, apart from “Ten Feet Tall (II)”, there aren’t any tracks that compel me to revisit Kindred over and over. It’s not a bad album by any means, just not one that will change lives or make many people feel anything. It’s excellently produced synthpop with a solid gimmick, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Five songs I’m listening to this week:
Passion Pit | “Ten Feet Tall (II)”
Hudson Mohawke | “Ryderz”
Cakes Da Killa | “Serve It Up”
Kanye West | “All Day (Remix)” feat. Kendrick Lamar
Kanye West | “Wolves” feat. Vic Mensa & Sia