30 May 2009

I really like Passion Pit's 'Manners,' sound like an asshole. Deal.

I'm going to sound like an asshole saying this, but I'll say it anyway : I don't like jumping on the bandwagon or fueling the hype machine. Yeah yeah, I know, I said it. Deal.

It's pretty unavoidable, though – often I find myself with one foot in said wagon, with or without having meant for it land there. I suppose everyone could argue the same point, but whatever. Such is the case with Passion Pit. I found out about them pretty organically – my friend's brother told me about them. I checked them out. And at the time, I thought, "This is something I could really get into," while the rest of the collective blogosphere collectively went nuts over their debut EP, Chunk of Change. How to reconcile that? By not being in love with it. I hadn't recklessly dedicated my heart to this Valentine’s gift-turned-band because I thought, gasp!, maybe I didn’t really like it all that much while everyone else seemingly did.

And then along came Manners. Oh, Manners. You just might be everything I wish for in a pop record. I know seemingly every other blogger out there is saying the same thing, but allow me to layer on my adulation as well.

I'm a lover of melody, an adorer of hummable riffs and lines, and on Manners, Michael Angelakos and company amped up the pop sensibilities from the get-go. "Make Light" and "Little Secrets" burst in with such poppy enthusiasm, the sort that makes me forget that I have the attention span of a gnat and not notice the fact that the latter clocks in at nearly four minutes, the former at nearly five. The refrain of "Make Light" doesn't even hit until halfway through the song, but the climax is perfect. (I mean, hello, did I mention that I have the attention span of a gnat?)

After the Super Mario Brothers-synths-on-serotonin stomp of "Little Secrets," "Moth's Wings" is almost unexpected, with its more sober, piano-driven lines and heavier lyrics ("Dear friend as you know / Your flowers are withering") that still manage to be eternally optimistic ("Put down your sword and bow / Come lay with me on the ground"). The first release from the album, "The Reeling," turns the club beats and 80s feel back up with a vengeance. (Seriously, I think I heard that riff coming from my parents’ stereo when I was wee, but like, it's cool.) And the next three tracks do the same thing, swimming back and forth between styles and overall sounds : The sparser "To Kingdom Come," with is toned-down falsetto and sad refrain matched with sing-along na-na-nas; the slow-dance of "Swimming In The Flood"; the return to the 90s dancefloor in "Fold Your Hands" that ends with overload. The middle of the disc is mutable in feel yet analogous to itself in a way that works.

And then "Eyes Like Candles." Admit it, the first ten seconds make you want to sing out "I'm not a perfect person" à la Hoobastank circa 2004 (I know I do...), but move past that and we're given sing-songy refrain and horns, a pretty moment to reflect. We're barely past the intro and my heart is already soaring. It's easily my favourite of the record, building upon itself and then backing off to solo guitar before the perfect slide into "Sleepyhead." Oh, "Sleepyhead." This was, inexplicably, one of my least favourite tracks from Chunk of Change, but here's it's the climax of the record, unbeatable, infectious and bursting by in less than three minutes, the shortest track in a record where most songs hit the four-minute mark, and its brevity is its strong suit. It's over before it's even begun, and I find myself constantly hitting "repeat."

The last two tracks, "Let Your Love Grow Tall" and "Seaweed Song," hold their own, avoiding the sense of trailing into nothingness that plagues so many other records, although after the teaming up of "Eyes" and "Sleepyhead," it feels a moment to sit back and relax after the previous nine or ten songs.

Don't let my admiration fool you – it's not a perfect record. Angelakos' vocals aren’t for everyone. Speaking of vocals, when I first heard that the band had gotten a children's choir to sing back-up on some of the tracks (watch the video here), I thought, "Well, that makes sense," yet, as endearing as small children are, I haven’t decided if I love or loathe the effect. It's more toned down, more pop-attuned than its predecessor. But in terms of buoyancy, optimism, and enthusiastic beats, all of which Passion Pit hands out in copious amounts without becoming twee or saccharine, well, you really can’t beat Manners.

Besides, when's the last time you fell in love with someone – or something – completely perfect? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Passion Pit - "The Reeling"
Passion Pit - "Sleepyhead"

Passion Pit are currently on tour in the US support of Manners. Dates include 18th June at The 'Dise in Boston, and the 19th and 20th at Bowery Ballroom in New York, all of which are sold out. All dates are listed here.

Also, if you like this sort of thing, you should totes check out Yes Giantess. I should probably write about them, too.

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