Within seconds of Passion Pit’s newbie ‘I’ll Be Alright’ opening, I was pretty sure I was going to have a myocardial infarction. Picture the scene. Hunched over my desktop at work, desperate to find something to latch on to amid the quagmire of cruddy EDM (electronic dance music, recently discovered that’s a thing) filling my ears to that point, I came across news of a brand new single from the band that defined my 2009, haunted my 2010, became something to get nostalgic about in 2011 and finally, piqued my interest in 2012 with the prospect of ‘Gossamer’, their follow-up to debut ‘Manners‘. That album was very much a love or hate proposition. Some couldn’t stand Michael Angelakos’ high-pitched vocals but I was taken with the Valentines Day romance behind original EP ‘Chunk of Change’ (recorded as a late present for Angelakos’ then-girlfriend – how do you break up with a guy like that?) and with the dreamy, electropop vibes of the full LP that followed it. There was nothing on ‘Manners’ that I couldn’t listen to seventeen times in a row. That startling statistic remains true today.
If anything, then, the release of ‘‘ just over a month back, was met with a sense of consternation. With ‘Manners’ the band – majority Berklee College, Boston trained – had discovered a definite sound but it was one that, even laboured upon, never became laborious. The fluidity and lightness of Passion Pit’s debut is what continues to make its tunes relevant – they are universally ecstatic, transparently happy. And then came ‘Take A Walk’ – a kind of electro-trying-to-be-alternative-rock take on the global financial crisis that never quite saw Angelakos hit the sweet upper range that used to be par for the course. Instead, guitars filled that void as a distorted, dejected Passion Pit seemed to be taking the latter half of their moniker more seriously than ever before, forfeiting the former for talk of ‘bad investments’ and ‘pension funds’. Alongside the risible ‘‘, Coldplay could have done well with ‘Take A Walk’ in their discography. Passion Pit could have done without it.
Expecting another such promisingly ethereal but devastatingly corporeal experience when I plugged ‘I’ll Be Alright’ in, I turned the sound up to 11 and dialed my sentiment to ‘prepare to be disappointed’. Both adjustments, as it happens, were wildly misguided. Drums and voice and cymbal and synth explode out of the gates and the first, distinct impression you might manage to form after refitting your toupee is that someone got Internet naming convention wrong again and mislabeled a Passion Pit remix. Alas, the Cambridge, Massachusetts quintet haven’t been sitting idly by since ‘Manners’ redefined their genre. In the mashed-up, ‘kaleidolooped’ vocals that open and close this piece, they channel the heart-attack tactics of Hudson Mohawke and co, pushing as much sound through the speakers as they possibly can in each bar. In between, Angelakos returns to the falsetto we all know and love, talking pills and drinks through lyrics that, deceptively convivial, remain steadfastly darker than ‘Manners’ era material. When the soaring, titular refrain returns for the chorus, though, we know we’ve got Passion Pit back. Now with really exciting production values and serious intent. I’ll keel over for that anytime. Watch out July 24.
Passion Pit – I’ll Be Alright