Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit has always followed a certain method in writing his songs – underneath the upbeat, euphoric noise lies a crippling depression brought about by tumultuous relationships, substance abuse, and even mental illness. The sounds in Manners and Gossamer were a genius contradiction of emotions, and it was easy not to notice the constant sadness that ran rampant through the haze of joyous sound, and Angelakos was brilliant in hiding them. However, in Passion Pit’s third album Kindred, the music and the lyrics join forces to create a more optimistic feeling, and leaves the album sounding calm and homogeneous as a result of a newfound happiness.
On first listen, Kindred sounds a little too happy, but as you listen to the rest of the album, it’s apparent that perhaps this was the intent. It’s clear that Angelakos has succeeded some in dealing with the stresses and the diagnosis of bipolar disorder that he communicated throughout the years, and it’s definitely shown in this album. Although it’s not as colorful and vivacious as it’s companions, Kindred still explores a new sort of feeling – one that sounds like a spiritual awakening, or even the notion that Angelakos is trying to be happier. His wife is still one of his main inspirations, and that healthy relationship he has in his life has definitely added to his desire for happiness. “Lifted Up (1985)” (about his wife) and “Whole Life Story” are the “Take a Walk” and the “Carried Away” tracks of this album, considering that they’re the ones that sounds most like Angelakos’s signature saccharine sound. “Where the Sky Hangs” almost sounds like a Toro y Moi release from it’s addictive funk beat and the wavering vocals, and moves relatively well into “All I Want,” a quirky, inventive ballad. “Looks Like Rain” is slow and mature, which seems to be the overarching tone to the rest of the album. Throughout the album, it’s apparent that Angelakos’s love of the eighties aesthetic is still a very real thing, but instead of focusing on the past, it looks towards the future in an overtly positive way that never backs down. That may be the only grievance with Kindred, as picky as that sounds. With so much positivity, there’s nothing to balance it out, and the album lacks a look into the other side. It weighs down the listener in some places, and can be overwhelming. However, there’s still the effect of nostalgia, as heard in the stunning track “My Brother Taught Me How To Swim.” That effect is always a good thing to have in any album, regardless of genre, because it gives that sense of dimension. In fact, I felt as if the album should have ended there. But then, the heavily synthesized track “Ten Feet Tall (II)” follows, which does seem a bit unnecessary, considering that it alters the tone evoked before.
Kindred, overall, does sounds nice and focused. Its clear in both the instrumentals and the vocals that Angelakos was in a better place when recording, and he’s even mentioned that in interviews. However, the intense, overwhelming feelings of joy get redundant at times. If Manners was the naive, tortured debut and Gossamer was the beautiful magnum opus, Kindred is the matured, calmer attempt at contentment, even though it may be greatly stressed. But in the end, can we really fault anyone for trying to be happy?
photo by Jason Nocito