Passion Pit is the brain-child of Michael Angelakos; or should that be Michael Angelakos IS Passion Pit? As the band’s sole member, he writes and records much of what you hear on record. With influences ranging from Animal Collective to Tom Waits and contemporaries in diverse artists such as The Naked and Famous and Matt & Kim, Passion Pit is hitting an already packed market. More specifically, Passion Pit is trying to force their way into an already tightly packed niche.
In 2012, Gossamer was one way of barging into this niche and such tracks as “Take A Walk” wormed their way into TV adverts and radio. In short, Passion Pit’s public standing grew (and with good reason) as Gossamer was synthpop at some of its best. It was hyperactive, emotional and diverse in its sound and “I’ll Be Alright” was a true highlight as its irrepressible energy was captivating and Angelakos’ vision was truly realised. What held Gossamer back however, was that, aside from the two aforementioned tracks, there was very little of pop value and this meant that placing at number 4 on the Billboard 100 was a real surprise. The indietronica of the album, while incredibly impressive, was not the stuff of number 1 albums.
This is where Kindred comes in. In contrast to his totalitarian control over Passion Pit’s output on previous releases (where he took sole writing and most of the production credit), this has become a more collaborative work – working with big names like composer Hans Zimmer and super-producer Benny Blanco (who has songs by Ke$ha, Katy Perry and Maroon 5 on his resumé). The product of this relinquishing of power is profound. Musically, there is much more of a pop factor to the album and then there’s the lyrics.
Since the age of 17 (and especially during the formative stages of Gossamer), Angelakos has struggled with bi-polar (even being put on suicide-watch at one point) and the lyrics reflect this – even on the upbeat “I’ll Be Alright”, he’s only saying “I’ll be alright” to make himself seem strong to an outsider. Here, on such songs as “Lifted Up (1985)”, Angelakos is clearly in a much better place. He sings about how “1985 was a good year” because his wife was born and it goes to show that, despite his disdain for the time elapsed between then and now, he’s staying positive.
Overall, the sound on Kindred is also smoother. While this may sound odd, this is clear from the beginning of the record. The synthesised sounds used throughout are less glitchy; more polished and this is even true of Angelakos’ already lustrous vocal delivery. The transformation has been carried out from the project’s very foundations. That is not to say however, that Kindred is not distinctly a Passion Pit record; it is unequivocally a Passion Pit record.
What has clearly been carried out is a shine and polish; a refinement that is similar to that of The National or Run the Jewels. This is abundantly clear on such tracks as “Dancing on the Grave”. The vocal delivery is silky smooth and the appearance of synth parts are heralded by a crescendo – not an instantaneous fortissimo. This is something that will appeal to a much wider audience, while still pleasing existing fans and allow for Passion Pit’s standing in a wider setting to grow exponentially. What is also to Kindred‘s credit is the way in which much of the album, largely, forms one continuous piece as transitions between songs are smooth and natural. Moving between “Five Foot Ten (I)”, “Dancing on the Grave” and “Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)” is flawless and if attention is not paid, it’s easily missed. This is something that is commendable of the production team behind the album.
The clear difference between Kindred and the rest of the their back-catalogue though, is the musical vision. Whereas their previous works have felt like a collection of songs, this is an album. Angelakos has gone the extra mile to form a cohesive record that should be taken in as one. Gossamer was a couple of singles then a load of album tracks; Kindred is something that needs to be listened to from end-to-end – despite there being “Lifted Up (1985)”; the undeniable stand-out piece. If you’re asking “Should I give Kindred the time of day?” the answer is undeniably “YES!” as it’s a clear step up from Michael Angelakos’ previous works.
Release: 21st April 2015
Genre: Indie Pop / Indietronica
Previous Works: Manners (2009) and Gossamer (2012)
Contemporaries: The Naked and Famous, Grizzly Bear and Matt & Kim.
Influences: Animal Collective, Tom Waits and Randy Newman.
You can listen to/watch the video to “Lifted Up (1985)” below.
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