Passion Pit: Manners
The story of Boston's Passion Pit is a familiar one: boy (Michael Angelakos) creates a low-ambition musical project (a gift for his girlfriend), it ends up wowing his friends and peers, boy is encouraged to share it with others, boy attracts a label (Frenchkiss), boy puts out EP (Chunk of Change) on said label, boy's EP gets the blogosphere buzzing, boy puts together a band and delivers debut LP (Manners) to an eager public.
The narrative certainly is an appealing one. It's the latest incarnation of the "manager drives by four dudes jamming in a garage" tale, or the classic "waitress discovered while singing karaoke." And the reason we are drawn to these stories is because they suggest that good music can't be suppressed. These songs will get out there somehow, circumstances be damned.
Similarly, everything about Manners is irrepressible. The keyboards and synths buzz and whirr excitedly, the bass is lively and clean, the compressed drums are dynamic and punchy, and although Angelakos' falsetto borders on the ridiculous, it is inarguably earnest and his melodies are spirited. Nothing recalls exuberance quite like little kids chanting "higher and higher" over chopped up synths, like on "Little Secrets." This is an album to dance wildly to in your room, not sexily in the club. Even when Passion Pit tones it down on songs like "Moth's Wings," the boundless enthusiasm is still apparent in the shimmering wall of keyboards and group vocals.
You'd think that with a high-energy sound like Passion Pit's, Manners would have its share of clunkers (cough MGMT), or at least have trouble maintaining itself for 11 songs. Nope, this is an album on which the singles are not the only tracks worth hearing. If anything, Manners actually keeps its manner (heh heh, sorry) a little too well. The insistent chirpy tone can become incessant as the songs start bleeding into each other. Passion Pit does mix it up on songs like "Swimming in the Flood" and the Chunk of Change throwback "Sleepyhead," with the former's more melancholic feel slowing it down while the latter hinges on a nifty soul sample, pitched chipmunk style. But the band approaches every song with the same giddy mentality that can result in an impenetrable Technicolor sheen.
However, those trifles can be forgiven by Passion Pit's desire to provide nothing more than the marriage of a joyous hook to some catchy electro-pop. Nuance might not be their thing, but that probably isn't heavily considered when making a slick and playful pop record. And just because it's fun doesn't mean it's irreverent or void of any substance. Manners might be too shiny for some, but no one can accuse it of being hollow.
- Kevin Na