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A little disappointing (3.5 stars)
on 23 July 2012
It's quite funny how living in the second decade of the 21st century can alter your perspective about the art you consume. I feel like I'm constantly inundated with hyped reviews about music I'd be foolish to ignore and when the music itself is so easily accessible, I inevitably click play on that shiny button that spells out stream. This is a good thing in many ways, as more choice means more power to the consumer, so if you decide to actually pay for an album after you've already listened to it on a site like spotify or NPR, you know you're definitely going to enjoy it.
There are those occasions where a band can fall folly to misinterpretation by our new culture of instant gratification though, where you might enjoy an album after a first play but still neglect to shell out for it. This is something that i'm shamefully guilty of with Passion Pit's debut album Manners, I thought it was an intriguing happy go lucky pop album with a few excellent singles when i streamed it. But if I'd actually bought the album I wouldn''t be blithely throwing adjectives like happy at Michael Angelakos and co. as there's some really dark undertones on there that only a cursory listen could lead me to miss.
With the recent article in Pitchfork coming out a couple of days ago highlighting the problems with mental health and depression that Manners latently hinted the frontman might be experiencing, I went into this record with a whole new outlook hoping to appreciate all it's potent lyricism and indefatigable pop prowess. Unfortunately I feel I've invested my undivided attention into the wrong Passion Pit album. Manners although sugary and larger than life, rarely felt overblown in the same way Gossamer does. The lyrics whilst revelatory and quite touching, can at times feel impenetrable with Angelakos prone to making one too many grand and contradictory statements, that sometimes feel a little too much like adolescent diary entries.
The music suffers from the same excess to, with every song on here aiming for cathartic euphoria you almost become inured to all the emotional bombast long before they end. I was hoping for Passion Pit to build on their impressive debut by scaling back some of the noisier elements for Gossamer, maturing into a band that's capable of introspection opposed to endless explosions. There are moments where their hyperactivity works fantastically however, like "I'll be alright" where Michael Angelakos bravely acknowledges his destructiveness may be harming the very person he loves the most, so he's giving them permission to walk away.
The music on this song feels genuinely heart-warming, with the energetic instrumentation helping to reinforce Michael's tender sentiments. "Constant Conversations" is another success story that marries College dropout's soul to Dirty Projectors harmonising, creating one of best R&B songs this year. I don't wish to mar the judgements of anybody who was really looking forward to picking this up, as I should mention the production is immaculate and there are other notable highlights on Gossamer to. I just feel as though the band could've produced an outstanding album here if they just showed a little more self-restraint when they were putting a lot of these songs together, to borrow the cliche sometimes less is more.