In his perpetual rush to create something memorable Angelakos often omits the personal details that would offer true insight into who he is as an artist and where he is heading.
On the eve of his second album’s 2012 release, Passion Pit mastermind Michael Angelakos’ revelations of mental illness, suicidal thoughts and drug use led some fans and critics to accuse him of trading on his personal struggles to create buzz. Gossamer debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 album charts and his electronic bursts of sunshine grew synonymous with festival goers in America and abroad. In the process, Angelakos became something of a de facto spokesman for people suffering with mental illness, or at least a conversation starter. It’s a conversation he avoids on Kindred.
On second track “Whole Life Story,” Angelakos apologizes to his wife for making the couple’s private life an open book last time he released an album. Kindred’s lone revelation is that there are no revelations. In pre-release interviews, the 27-year-old Brooklyn resident has assured the world how normal he is this go-round, using words like “mature,” “hopeful” and “fun” to describe the record and his recording process. It’s hard to blame him for wanting to steer clear of past hurts. Mental illness is a difficult, oft-misunderstood topic and Passion Pit has never presented itself as a big statement band. From the first time its combination of glossy synths and Angelakos’ strained falsetto touched listeners ears the experience revolved around creating a light out of the darkness to dance away one’s worries. And that is largely what Angelakos provides on Kindred, a record teeming with bright sonic colors but one that breaks precious little new ground from his earlier efforts.
Lead single “Lifted Up (1985)” opens the album with gratification so instant in the form of warm, repetitive “oh” sounds that listeners might be tempted to start the track over 15 seconds in. They should resist this urge because the “1985 was a good year” chorus that follows is like the first glorious spring day when you ditch your jacket for short sleeves. Passion Pit has made its music available to corporations hawking orange juice and shitty fake-beef tacos. No doubt “Lifted Up (1985)” will find its way onto an advertisement selling something awful yet ubiquitous. I won’t begrudge Angelakos, if/when he licenses it, because a track this blissful should be heard by as many people as possible.
Unsurprisingly, Kindred doesn’t offer anything else that hits the sweet spot quite like “Lifted Up (1985)”. The songs with the most replay value, as on previous Passion Pit albums, are the ones whose choruses come with more sugar than Count Chocula, such as the aforementioned “Whole Life Story” and “All I Want.” The latter’s chorus could set a coal miner’s ears aglow. Not all candy-coated songs are created equal. “Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)” recalls the obnoxious, electro-trash of Matt and Kim’s recent work and sounds like a song Angelakos initially wrote for a Top 40 artist, which is to say it feels dumbed down. On this particular track he searches for home. Elsewhere, on the twinkling electronic number “Where the Sky Hangs,” Angelakos begs to stay in place. He is in a transitive state of mind, one in which—like many twentysomethings—he struggles to navigate. Instead of exploring this theme he offers vagaries.
In his perpetual rush to create something memorable and universal Angelakos often omits the personal details that would offer true insight into who he is as an artist and where he is heading. For instance, “Five Foot Ten (I)” references how he lied to make himself sound taller, a novel idea that hints at self-awareness. Rather than build on this premise, he delivers the album’s poppiest and most generic chorus, “I wanna be all alone, alone with you.” It’s like a rainbow appeared without storms. The same could be said for Kindred. Without the dark as context, what does the light mean?