This album is a good measure of just how far my taste in music has spread. Back when, I would have swiftly dismissed this as awful on the strength of the vocals alone. Thankfully my tastes have changed since, because Manners has been the soundtrack of choice for my morning workout. (There’s nothing like running through the foggy morning streets of SF ready to collapse but pushing yourself on to the sounds of a choir full of kids chanting “higher and higher and higher.”)
What was originally a vehicle for Michael Angelakos to write songs as a Valentines gift for his girlfriend, blew the fuck up over the last year and is now a full on band signed to a major label.
Passion Pit’s sound is exuberant, care free, unabashedly cheesy and addictive, like all good pure pop music. Anchored by propulsive dance beats and Angelakos’ shrill falsetto vocals, the songs are overflowing with saccharine melodies; sing-songy call and response hooks and glutinous amounts of 80’s style keyboards (their live show purportedly employs no less than eight!). In short, it’s is an orgy of neon mechanized glee. Imagine MGMT doing a straight synthpop album and ratcheting all the vocals up an octave and you get a general idea.
This silly catchiness, however, belies some pretty sophisticated compositions. The drums they record live and then chop in a DAW, layering in cowbells and plenty of those 80’s style tom rolls. Then come the keyboards. Layer upon layer upon layer of synthesizers- fluttering, twinkling, gurgling, pulsing, arpeggiating. Stings, horns, key, guitars, bass - pretty much any kind of synthesizer patch you could think of. And finally comes Angelakos’ distinctly unrestrained pipes.
There’s not a lot variety, save for some tempo changing, but when you do something well…
My favorite songs are the propulsively infectious Little Secret featuring the aforementioned call and response refrain from a children's choir and The Reeling, a glistening monument of unadulterated pop bliss. Sleepy Heads is included here as well. Originally released earlier as part of the 2008 Chunk of Change EP , it was this youtube video that started all the fuss. And while I was initially was non-plussed, I have to admit, the pitched vocal sample and wail-y singing have definitely grown on me.
Got to hand it to these guys, this is pretty damn near flawless execution. Perfect mindless summertime listening.