Shiny, happy sounds define the music of Passion Pit. On “Manners,” the debut full-length album released in 2010, synthesizers shimmered and pealed with lustrous timbres, while dance beats pulsed with tireless programmed jubilation behind Michael Angelakos’s falsetto voice.
“Gossamer,” the second Passion Pit album, released by Columbia, adds both new gizmos and a more human touch: dizzying electronic stutters, wavery manipulated voices, chiming glockenspiels, stately pianos, female backup singers, twittering woodwinds and elegiac string sections. It’s larger and much cleaner than life — that is, until Angelakos’s lyrics sink in.
Then it turns out that things aren’t so euphoric after all. The songs on “Gossamer” — which Angelakos has described as autobiographical — revolve around a romance besieged by the singer’s own cynicism, insecurity, obsessiveness, abusive behavior and heavy drinking.
Angelakos — Passion Pit’s songwriter, singer and all-around instrumentalist — has dropped the notion that Passion Pit is a band. He made “Gossamer” with his producer and drummer, Chris Zane, aided on some songs by the arranger Nico Muhly and the Swedish vocal trio Erato.
“Gossamer” is a studio extravaganza, updating the grandeur of groups like Abba and the Beach Boys to the 21st century — especially in “On My Way,” an ornately orchestrated marriage proposal that offers, “I’ll buy a ring and then we’ll consecrate this messy love” and promises “All these demons, I can beat them.”
Although Angelakos played nearly all the instruments, the results don’t sound solitary. On “Manners,” Passion Pit was gleaming yet opaque; Angelakos’s voice was buried amid the synthesizers, the arrangements thumped along with little change from start to finish, and the net effect was — to be blunt — monotonous.
“Gossamer” opens up the music and lets it breathe. For all the artificial splendor, there’s clearly a very human, very troubled voice at the center of most of these songs.
The New York Times