Music Reviews

Passion Pit Kindred

(Columbia) Rating - 6/10

Unlike most 28-year-olds, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos probably hasn’t spent much time in Ikea.  The early success of his Chunk of Change EP and its subsequent LP Manners made the band an indie-pop darling and led to a deal with Columbia Records for sophomore follow-up Gossamer.  A few gigs headlining festivals is all it takes to leave the world of budget home furnishings behind, and that’s a real shame, because with new LP Kindred, Angelakos may not realize that what he’s released is the musical equivalent of a white HEMNES bookcase.

Passion Pit’s go-to sound is ebullience - pure, reckless and relentless.  Arrangements soar skyward with a propellant distilled from unicorn dust and 180-proof euphoria.  Each track is coated in a layer of glossy lacquer that glistens under light and proves pleasing to behold.

In this regard, Kindred is no different than its forebears.  At least half of its 10 succinct offerings adopt this formula, including the two singles Lifted Up (1985) and Until We Can’t (Let’s Go).  Both feature hard-hitting 4/4 time signatures, over-dubbed vocals, and the pitch-shifted white noise effects that flash “DROP” when a motorway billboard would be a bit too subtle.  Each verse exists to find the chorus, half the words are sung in Angelakos’ stratospheric falsetto range, and no ear could fully process the bevy of spritely sounds that flutter about in the background.  From a superficial perspective, the trademark sheen is slathered on as thick as ever.

The problem with Kindred comes when that polished topcoat is peeled back.  Passion Pit’s previous hits were wholly consuming in their infectiousness and exuberance.  The hooks were huge enough to haul in a marlin, but it was the instrumental riffs and cohesiveness of composition that netted Angelakos a sea of followers.  There was the mellifluously meandering keyboard of Eyes as Candles, the undulating baseline of Kingdom Come, and the percussion in Little Secrets that just begged for more cowbell.  Kindred, in disappointing contrast, is devoid of these salient sections. Five Foot Ten stutters along with basic chord pulses and erratic embellishing sounds that contribute nothing to mood or memorability. Where the Sky Hangs opens with a promising instrumental passage, but it proves a prelude to the chorus’ vocal melody and proceeds repetitiously to a merciful end.  Angelakos’ hooks still show up in droves, but they amount to partial credit for a project that requires so much more for the A-grade results of which it’s proven capable.

With cost as no object, what consumer would prefer an Ikea bookcase to one crafted from solid oak?  The beauty of music is that quality and cost have no correlation — LPs don’t vary significantly in price.  And unlike previous Passion Pit releases, Kindred’s arrangements are a heap of disjointed sound fragments glued into a form that exists solely to support the glossy veneer.  They splinter when deconstructed and creak under the weight of their structural responsibilities.  They’re tolerable in a transitory sense provided that better will one day be attainable, and the sad irony is that Passion Pit was that ‘better’ on previous releases.  For Angelakos’ long-time fans, hope abounds that Kindred will prove to be a manufacturing defect rather than a new and misguided philosophy of design.