Artist: Passion Pit
Label: Frenchkiss Records/Columbia
Due Out: May 19th
For a group that's been around for about a year and a half, Passion Pit has generated an awful lot of buzz. Appearing on the scene late in 2007, the five members have created fun and interesting pop music in their brief time together, capitalizing on the recent electro-indie craze, or perhaps, even furthering it. After releasing a six-song demo, originally penned for lead singer Michael Angelakos' girlfriend, the band gained popularity at Emerson College almost instantly, followed by notice in the Boston music press. From there, MTV, Pitchfork, Itunes, and the WB online have all picked up on the band, and ever since, it's seemed that they've been on a roller coaster ride to stardom. And that's where we arrive at Manners. Expanding upon the creative wall of sound they concocted on 2008's Chunk of Change EP, Manners brings a strong first chapter in what should be a long and interesting career of full-lengths. If you like pop music, brace yourself.
"Make Light" rolls in, quickly getting louder from its reserved introduction, bursting onto the scene with a jovial collection of pop synths, soaring falsetto vocals, and a playful guitar riff. Next is "Little Secrets," a song that at first makes you think you're starting up the NES for a game of Super Mario Bros., before the inevitable vocal takeover. Though the entire record is fun, this song may be the most so, employing a bouncy pop beat that curries favor from 80s enthusiasts and even fans of church hymnals. Admittedly, I usually hate kid vocals in songs, but this track uses them to perfection. Literally, perfection. When I first heard them, I was hooked. It's the perfect medium to truly translate the youth this record strives for, so I commend the band for possessing the foresight there. Compared to the previous track, "Moth's Wings" may sound slow at first, but I'm pretty sure anything would. However, we see that this track quickly jumps into its keyboard-fueled melody that, like most of the songs on the album, bounces along with a pleasant and airy feel that is sure to make it endearing to listeners this year.
From there, we proceed to the album's first single, "The Reeling," a dance party in the image of European electro-pop if I've ever heard one. These songs all fit together, trust me, but there is a definite difference in style per song that makes me eagerly anticipate the next one. Also, if the fantastic beat here wasn't enough, the kid chorus is back for yet another perfect placement within the track. In what starts out as something that sounds very similar to a slowed-down version of the intro Ra Ra Riot's "Too Too Too Fast," "To Kingdom Come" finally allows us to catch a bit of our breath, though that observation is only by the standards of Manners as a whole. It's still catchy as hell, just like the rest of the album, once it gets to the chorus, and will have you dancing, or tapping your foot at the least. Next, "Swimming in the Flood," could probably substitute as a hip hop song at first glance, before incorporating some calm vocals and a conservative piano contribution. If this album had to have a ballad, I suppose you could call this it, at least for the first half, before it gets more active again. "Folds In Your Hands" then brings us back to the club, once again hopping around between the high-pitched vocals, 80s-inspired synths, and 90s dance beats.
"Eyes As Candles" just seems like a spoof on Hoobastank's "The Reason" at first glance, and honestly, if someone did an entire record of songs like that, I would have half a mind to give it a 9 out of 10. Hoobastank owes us for that entire three-month block time we had to hear that song, so I think it's only fair to champion those who may allude to it, albeit briefly and in a joking fashion. The next track, "Sleepyhead," is definitely familiar to anyone who's been listening to this type of music in the past year. We even featured it here a couple months back. Though not the fastest, nor most adventurous song, for some reason, this one appeals to people purely on the basis of its many elements creating a fun and pleasant pop mixture. Then, believe it or not, "Let Your Love Grow Tall" actually sounds like a regular song- and by regular, I mean, something that's not hopped up on pop and club beats while flying along at over 180 bpms. Once again, there's a hint of the kids chorus, this time in a more-reserved capacity, but still there and effective, so it's a plus. And we end with "Seaweed Song". This one actually sounds a bit religious, but maybe that's just my perception. I'm guessing it was called "Seaweed Song" because of the underwater aesthetic it seems to create? I could be wrong, but I feel like I'm underwater while listening to it, so that seemed to work.
Manners, unlike any other album I have heard this year, is in another world. Literally. Passion Pit has created a bubble of sound, that you can only access while listening to this album, and once inside, you are so overwhelmed and taken aback by the pure level of accomplishment that it's over before you know it. Every song has a real and original personality, and I commend the band for quickly holding their own and making a name for themselves as ones to watch in the recent sea of electronic-based tunes. Rarely does a band, especially on their debut album, undertake this much so successfully. There's a lot going on here, all of it delightful, so prepare yourself to listen multiple times to truly latch on to everything happening around you. Similarities include the aforementioned Ra Ra Riot, MGMT, and Dan Deacon.
Best Track: "Little Secrets"