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Musical therapy: Passion Pit’s Kindred

Buffalonian electronica artist shows personal growth in latest release

kindred

Album: Kindred

Release Date: April 21

Label: Columbia Records

Grade: B-

Passion Pit has risen from the ashes.

Kindred is the group’s first release since frontman Michael Angelakos publicly discussed his rocky mental health history in 2012. Passion Pit’s sophomore album delivered morose, sentimentally raw lyrics hidden beneath sweet melodies and catchy-pop beats, displaying the emotional pain that inspired it.

The group’s new music has traded sadness for optimism, showing strength and hope through happier lyrical themes such as friends, family, love and good times.

At first glance, this newfound pep seems excessive and contrived. The album starts off radio-friendly with “Lifted Up (1985),” an ultra-poppy, almost to the point of melting your brain, liquid-bubblegum track. The track starts off with a yipping which, upon hearing it, my brother likened to the sounds of our separation anxiety-ridden dog. With “1985 was a good year,” as focal lyrics, the song appears gimmicky and somehow both simplistic and overdone.

Much of the album follows in the same fashion, continuing the high-energy, falsetto-driven electropop displayed in the group’s earlier works – utilizing handclaps, layered synth and the occasional auto-tune. Some tracks are similar to the work Passion Pit has done in the past, like (attempted) pump-up party jam “Until We Can’t (Let’s Go).” Others like “Ten Feet Tall (II)” resemble Owl City, which I doubt was what Angelakos was going for.

But as shown previously on the group’s last album, Gossamer, Angelakos has a knack for lyrical depth beneath cheery pop music. “The flickering light’s just a flame / Oh but yeah, I’m so tired / I’ve been away for so many years,” he sings in “Lifted Up (1985),” displaying the transition from his struggle with bipolar disorder.

Unlike the catchy, beat-driven tracks that have won Passion Pit much recognition over the past seven years, the real gems on Kindred are the ones Angelakos stripped down, removing the effervescent, distracting gimmicks and leaving a clean, emotional sound and displaying his growth since such a low time in his life.

“Where the Sky Hangs” delivers a funky bass line mixed with snappy synth pop and layered vocals that make it impossible not to nod along to the beat. It’s the kind of song you’d expect to hear playing in Forever 21, but somehow that’s a great thing here. It begs nostalgia for things that haven’t happened yet.

“Whole Life Story” is a letter to Angelakos’ wife apologizing for the scrutiny the pair received from the media after his personal issues were aired to the public. With more claps and controlled keyboard sounds, the track is both honest and clear. “Looks Like Rain” displays a similar simplicity, with dampened electronica sounds combined with layered harmonies and actual, real-life acoustic piano.

Along with the album’s 10 songs, four bonus tracks were released – four reimagined versions of the main songs. With an acoustic version of “My Brother Taught Me How to Swim,” we hear something unbelievable – acoustic guitar in a Passion Pit song. A stripped-down “slow-mo” version of “Lifted Up” made its way to the bonus track listing as well, delivering a simpler, more magical version of the hyper-pop radio single.

Though Kindred is far from Passion Pit’s best work, it shows an important moment in the group’s history – recovery. Despite an abundance of overwrought, tacky synth-pop, the album delivers a fistful of listen-worthy tracks, all with beautiful electropop goodness and lyrics that tell an inspirational story of resurgence.

Grace Trimper is a staff writer and can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com


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