Passion Pit - Gossamer Album Review
A bit like Arthur and Marilyn, there's always that lurking suspicion that being clever and being at the nub of pop culture - or being an icon in its highly transient field of dreams - are attributes with all the togetherness of oil and water. Attempting to make that belief someone else's problem, Massachusetts quintet Passion Pit appear to share a desire to deliver the simple rush freed up from its lowest common denominator; a blueprint they shared with the likes of MGMT, Yeasayer and our own Everything Everything. It's a destination that's hard to pin down, and Gossamer seems to be the most appropriate self-descriptive title we can think; sleek, glamorous and light to the touch, it's also delicate and may not stand up to lots of close scrutiny.
Once a solo venture for the laptop histrionics of Michael Angelakos, Passion Pit have now grown into a band with a serious critical pedigree, major label backing and reputation as remixers of note. Gossamer arrives at a point in musical history which seems to have prophetic timing, one where anybody resembling a serious musician can make more money working in a call centre and the charts are full over hyper-extended love notes from Logic Pro 9. As you might expect from a bunch of ex-students from Berkeley (Angelakos being the exception) it manages to combine sounding almost evangelically pop with not taking itself too seriously, another requisite in the must-have irony train that is the contemporary arts
Opener Take A Walk makes this point quite brazenly, valedictory fairground synths and a thudding tempo underpinning a weird first person narrative by a first generation immigrant now experiencing the nightmare doppelganger effects of the American dream. Interestingly, despite having the opportunity to use their full roster to deliver a more Mumford's style kitchen sink of a sound, there are still many echoes of the time that Angelakos used his laptop for composition. Here, the processed squawks at the beginning of I'll Be Alright and misty eyed techno washes of Carried Away blur the line between instruments and software, one some musicians have been scared to cross.
There are moments though where even tongue in cheek, PP make a noise that's heavenly. Constant Conversations is R&B delivered from an oddly lo-fi, non-grind perspective; the same kind of wonkery that makes Cry Like A Ghost one of the most bedroom-danceable exercises in careless genre splitting heard in this year. If that doesn't grab you, the good news is that on Gossamer another one usually comes along in a minute; Love Is Greed aims for that cross hair between 80's neon cocaine vanity and modern day mock naivety - it bulls-eyes - whilst Hideaway begins with some doe-eyed Euro trash muzak before mutating into a festival bossing chorus and feels effortlessly like Phoenix at their best.
So there you have it: Brains + Honey doesn't always = self-indulgence. In fact, Angelakos and co. have used theirs to yet again prove pop's ultimate truth: that it has no boundaries and no formula, just an endless capacity to reinvent itself spontaneously. But then they're so savvy, they almost certainly knew that already.
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