If Animal Collective stirred a collective wig-out last winter with a melodic cast of dance-driven rock that tapped in to the more primordial side of their listeners, then Passion Pit are here to reclaim the genre for the heart. Though isn't that what one would expect from a musical project started as a Valentine's Day gift for lap top tweaker Michael Angelakos' girlfriend?
Titled Manners, the puffed up Boston outfit is finally dropping their debut album on y'all...some eight months after said V Day gift - the Chunk of Change EP - spawned a band, a record deal, and a good bit of affirmation along the way. Anticipation of this kind has been known to bully down debuts in the past (see Black Kids, Tokyo Police Club), but Manners should see some serious light this summer. Here's why.
Musically, Manners is a first-rate sort of listen. Packed real snug-like with bouts of bubblegum beats and glitzy waves of disco loving synths, the record fires off any number of highlights as it cycles through. Might I suggest first timers start by bouncing 'round the room to the kid-chorus concoction that is "Little Secrets". After that, buoy back and forth with the snazzy ebb and flow of album standout "The Reeling". And try not to find yourself too surprised when Chunk of Change highlight "Sleepyhead" sounds just a bit better this time around. Don't know if it was touched up or not, but there's certainly something to be said for the way this little gem fits into the eleven song set.
Then there is Angelakos himself. His window rattling falsetto is an intense sensation, and at times, carries a little too much weight on some of these tracks. But when he's dialed in, this singer's pen is well trained, and his twenty something poetics carefully considered. His themes of choice? Sincere, nice guy sentiment that comes off sounding uncertain at best. Take this little nugget from the pseudo-ballad "Moth's Wings". "You come beating like moth's wings/Spastic and violently/Whipping me into a storm/Shaking me down to the core". Nothing too specific offered here, but clearly an admission to someone else' hold over the singer. It's the kind of thing that creeps and crawls all over Manners. Look no further than the aforementioned track "The Reeling" for another such example of this relentless, youthful sensitivity. ("Look at me/Is this the way I'll always be?/Now I pray that somebody will quickly come and kidnap me" - That may just happen...)
Given the down and out tone, it's no wonder the rest of the band paint a campy kind of backdrop behind their leading man. Angelakos' lyrical load could use a little lightening. Ire regardless, Manners is a high flying, overjoyed (sounding) kind of affair. Expect lots of summer listening if you do yourself the favor of hearing it. - David Pitz