Passion Pit has one of the most unique sounds in the alternative music genre: a hybrid of high pitches and quirky, yet sophisticated, melodies. Having fallen in love with both Manners and Gossamer, I was hoping that the band would not go downhill like many artists do after their first few releases. Given the garbage that MGMT recorded in its third, self-titled album earlier this year, I was afraid that Passion Pit would do the same, and that the three-year wait for Kindred would result in disappointment. Thankfully, Passion Pit just released one of its strongest albums yet.
I appreciate albums that stay true to their band’s original style, which made me love Kindred right away. The album is consistent with Passion Pit’s characteristic qualities, but still surprises and engages the listener with cleaner, less frantic melodies. Its alternative-indie base is made sharper with an added twist of pop, and a slightly toned-down version of the band’s trademark, super-squeaky tone. The masterful balance of Passion Pit’s original sound with its new additions illustrates the versatility of the group. Main member Michael Angelakos also demonstrates the skill and talent of his underappreciated voice — a trait not highlighted in previous albums — by transitioning between his classic high-pitch notes and a calmer, lower tone throughout the album.
According to an interview with Pitchfork, the album is also an expression of Angelakos’s emotional struggle with his bipolar disorder, which reached a climax in 2012 when a leg of the Gossamer tour was canceled due to his mental health. Passion Pit has always been a master at disguising deep, complex themes behind bubbly beats, and Angelakos’s glimpse into mental recovery makes the album all the more provocative.
The opening track “Lifted Up (1985)” is a perfect representation of the album. Dedicated to his wife for supporting him through his mental health challenges, Angelakos sings that 1985, the year she was born, “was a good year.” The electro-pop track is beautifully and simply composed, complementing Angelakos’s dynamic voice. The repetitive high-pitch “hep, heps” and mellow verses build up to an explosive, high-energy chorus. The chorus’s simple rhyming lyrics — and the angelic nature of Angelakos’s high pitch — make it irresistibly catchy. The peppy beat and chorus are a prime example of Passion Pit’s balance between popular and original sound, which is apparent in other songs like “Whole Life Story” and “All I Want.” It was inevitable that “1985” would be added to my workout playlist.
Still, the album is not just a dose of fast-paced electro-pop. The variety in Kindred is notable in my favorite song of the album, “Looks Like Rain.” Reminiscent of “Constant Conversations” from Gossamer, the piece is smooth, fluid and calming without being boring. The mix of slow percussion, eerie electro-chimes and Angelakos’s perfectly executed falsetto balances the album.
Kindred has showcased the talent and greatness of Passion Pit. While I do not foresee any of these songs achieving the degree of popularity Passion Pit’s previous hit “Take a Walk” enjoyed — thanks to a Taco Bell commercial, nonetheless — the brilliance of their newest album is palpable. Shame on me for ever doubting the band.