Everyone wants to talk about Michael Angelakos' bipolar disorder. I understand that it unfortunately became the topic of most discussions surrounding Passion Pit's 2012 album, Grossamer, and that it's a very real issue, but at this point, we're savagely beating a long-dead horse. Music is one of the prime forums for catharsis, so of course Angelakos' songs are going to express his deepest feelings and concerns. Context is important in any discussion about the aural arts, but it isn't everything. That being said, Passion Pit's latest, Kindred, feels uninspired and been-there-done-that. While there are some standout moments, the collection falls flat and it generally irritates.
Angelakos' focus on the positives in Kindred brings his already sugary aesthetic to painfully saccharine levels. Album opener "Lifted Up (1985)" sounds like hyper-formulaic Disney K-pop from Hell. It has his signature density and layered synth, but its repetition is incessant and ineffective. "Whole Life Story" provides some solace, incorporating more of a human element and replacing the copious layering with a sincere vocal appeal; Kindred shines in its simpler moments. And the brief crescendo of quality culminates in "Where The Sky Hangs," a delightfully playful 80's ballad and my pick for the album's best song. Let's just say I'd stroll down a Miami side street in my blazer/t-shirt combo blasting it on my walkman.
We return to the nauseating cartoon theme park, however, in "Five Foot Ten (I)," This song could have been a Jamster ringtone or the soundtrack to one of those crazy frog videos. The lyrical content is endearing, but the high-fructose corn syrup mixture that it's floating in is off-putting, and that's really my gripe with the album as a whole. Angelakos knows how to express complex emotions through a poetically simplistic filter, but Kindred too often muddles that quality in unnecessary effects and questionable rhythmic choices.
I wouldn't mind dancing to "Until We Can't (Let's Go)" -- if there's a legal limit for usage of parentheses, this album exceeds it -- and the sparse pulsing in "Dancing on the Grave" gave me chills, but these small positives are not enough to drag Kindred into the light. Its raw emotion is captivating, but the musical packaging is abrasive and unappealing.