Passion Pit - Kindred

by Jed Fletcher

In the sense that Passion Pit’s latest LP has been released three years after their second album, which was released three years after their first, the Massachusetts Indie-Electro outfit has remained totally consistent! On the other hand, Kindred fails to identify with the same quality that we’ve got used to hearing from Passion Pit. Michael Angelakos, the sole member of the band, has a great voice, which envelops listeners through precious compositions of melody and power. As well as being a vocalist, Angelakos is a keyboardist - thus the distinct synths that complete Passion Pit’s award winning sound. I fear that a third studio album may have been asking too much of the twenty-seven year old; intriguing lyrics the likes of those in The Reeling have faded into unoriginality, the engaging instrumentals from Take a Walk have all but vanished, and Angelakos’ vocal range now seems nothing extraordinary.

Lifted Up (1985) was released as a single in February and was reasonably successful; the uplifting opener employs higher-pitch synths and a great backbeat to raise the listener’s spirits, but halfway through the song, despite its admittedly catchy chorus, it’s hard not to notice a formulaic quality – as though the band found a few winning bars but then just put them on a loop instead of building a song around them. It’s a similar case with Five Foot Ten (I) which starts with a dodgy spatter of synth and progresses into a decent bridge before Angelakos produces a painfully uninspired climax, jam-packed with needless repetition and tragic wailing which, if this song were by Chris Brown, we’d all be making fun of.

The album is by no means a collection of sub-par tracks in their own right. However each track’s faults gather to form a general deficiency in Kindred. Listening to the whole LP we hear recurring symptoms of weakness throughout. In the tracks All I Want and Until We Can’t, there’s an amateur feel to the production and structure of the songs. The verse of All I Want is good and intriguing and then out of nowhere we are assaulted by a quite ineffective chorus. As the song comes towards its conclusion, the verse gets a better run without interruption, only to lose its charm as an unwelcome arpeggio of synth notes enters to distract the listener from the lyrics. Again the climax of the song is culpable for its downfall in Until We Can’t; “Let’s go ‘til we can’t anymore” repeatedly yelled into the mic, at the right time might be terrifically empowering, though most of the time it sounds forced and kind of cheap in the way that poor pop music does. This is exacerbated by the instrumental, which breaks into an aggressively simple, key-mashing episode around the problematic chorus.

This all said, there are (as there would be with a band as established as Passion Pit) some diamonds in the rough. Where The Sky Hangs has a certain nostalgia to it and its soft notes make for a nice change from Whole Life Story and All I Want either side of it, both tracks utilising sharp, high-tempo instrumentals. Around about the middle of the track list we hear Dancing On The Grave, an intriguing, heartfelt interlude in which Angelakos’ vocals drift subtly over a minimalistic backdrop. In keeping with the more relaxed vibe of these two songs, Looks Like Rain is the best of what Kindred has to offer. Angelakos grips us with a beautiful rendition of the thoughtful lyrics, his pitch varying with each note before he enters the powerful chorus with a vocal range that Adele would be proud of. The backing instrumental is also delightful, with the melancholic notes dripping inoffensively behind Angelakos’ voice, giving the track an irresistible, natural sound.

Passion Pit has been at the peak of its genre since its conception in 2007, but as its genre has become more and more popular since then, the need for originality and progression seems to have overtaken it. If an emerging artist had released this album, it might’ve gotten a much better review, but the stature of the band and the reception of Angelakos’ past work demand a particular quality which wasn’t quite evident in Kindred.