Passion Pit wasn’t really supposed to be a band. Back in 2008, Michael Angelakos made a bunch of songs as a Valentine’s Day gift to his ex-girlfriend, which eventually wound up as the six song Chunk of Change EP (released in Sept. 2008). By then word started to spread about the Boston band’s falsetto crooning, clean synth-driven dance pop tracks, and Passion Pit began playing shows all around the Northeast.
My first encounter with the band was at the Mercury Lounge during the CMJ Festival last year, when I tried to ask my sister a question at the bar and she got pissed at me for ruining her conversation with “the lead singer of Passion Pit.” Oops! I quickly checked them out on Myspace and became briefly obsessed with uber-danceable “Sleepyhead:”
Then this February I happened to be in London and managed to catch them playing at Cargo, since our good friends Bear Hands were also on the bill (and are definitely also worth checking out!). The show was sold out and the venue was absolutely packed, but this didn’t stop anyone from getting down with some serious booty shaking/sing alongs, and the entire set was really high-energy and enjoyable:
After the European jaunt, the band hit up a little U.S. tour, including some dates at SXSW, which leads us up to this week and the release of their first full length album, Manners (Frenchkiss Records). To celebrate, on Tuesday the boys played what looks to have been a raucous and celebratory show on a boat cruise in the Hudson. Apparently, the band has really tightened up over the past few months, especially on the new tracks from the LP. Even MTV was there filming! Val Loper, the bassist from Bear Hands, was at the boat show and told me last night that they were “fucking amazing.”
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Manners, especially after “The Reeling,” the album’s first single, sounded hella over-produced. After the first listen I was thinking I was maybe right. But so far each listen has only made me get more into this expanded sonic repertoire. Sure, the lead singer’s voice can get a little grating/distracting sometimes, like in the chorus of “Folds in Your Hands,” interrupting an otherwise charging opening. But there are lot of nice surprising touches that I guess come from working with a big label producer, like the funky baritone sax at the end of “To Kingdom Come,” or the kid choruses (in “The Reeling” and “Little Sectrets”) ala Pink Floyd.
The standout tracks for me were “Little Secrets,” “Swimming in the Flood,” and – even though the LP version seems to me to be essentially unchanged from the EP – “Sleepyhead” is still a dope song. A lot of the other joints seem to me to suffer from too much ambition or good beginnings gone awry into spacey-synth jams and too-high vocal flights. But overall I’d say that the disc is pretty solid and worth more than a few spins.