Redemption. Paranoia. Guilt. And brief glimpses of a better tomorrow, all cloaked in pop hooks that truly help the medicine go down.
What is this? Another lost LP from Brian Wilsonâ€™s sandbox phase? If only things were that simple. What weâ€™re really alluding to here is Passion Pitâ€™s first proper full-length, Manners, a bird-flipping break from the blogosphere by a 21 year old with much more on his manic mind than girls, girls, girls. You know, important matters, like the end of the world and learning to love someone other than the man in the mirror.
Thatâ€™s the thing people missed about Passion Pitâ€™s debut EP, Chunk of Change. While it was originally meant as a Valentineâ€™s Day gift for a girlfriend who â€œput up withâ€ frontman Michael Angelakos, that detailâ€™s only half of a story that isnâ€™t so cuddly when you consider the circumstances.
You see, Angelakos has written songs since he was a piano-pounding 5 year old, from spooky and spare folk tunes to pit-stirring ska punk. But one day, he just stopped. Not by choice. Angelakosâ€™ creative well was simply in need of a severe refill, so he started toying with the plug-ins and infinite possibilities of a computer program. Six tracks later, Chunk of Change was born by default. In need of an impromptu thank you card and some feedback from friends, Angelakos started spreading the songs aroundâ€”quite casually, really. Which is impossible to do in an era when blogs are as obsessed with breaking the Next Big Thing as labels are.
Flash forward to 2008. With Chunk of Changeâ€™s official unmixed/mastered pressing in tow, Angelakos and the ever-evolving Passion Pit band play to a sold-out crowd at New Yorkâ€™s Bowery Ballroom. A crowd that sees nothing wrong with singing along to every word; even several Manners selections, learned via osmosis by the second verse. With flash bulbs popping in his face like the frontline of a rifle-toting army, Angelakos notes the bizarre scene in front of him but never loses sight of why heâ€™s here, of his calling to craft pitch-perfect pop songsâ€”hooks that nip at your heels and choruses that burrow into your brain.
A real deal album in other words, one that delivers on the blissful and bright promises of early fan favorites like â€œSleepyhead.â€ It took nearly two months of â€œexplosiveâ€ off-the-cuff sessions with producer Chris Zane (Les Savy Fav, The Walkmen) to get thereâ€”everything was written and recorded on the flyâ€”but Manners is exactly that, an irresistible, filler-free glimpse into the mind of a man whoâ€™d like to unleash his very own Pet Sounds someday.
Check the carefully-sculpted songwriting on display: the speaker-panning synths and slightly sinister childrenâ€™s chorus (straight outta P.S. 22 in NYC) of â€œLittle Secretsâ€ and â€œThe Reeling,â€ the lead dulcimer loops and melancholic melodies of â€œMothâ€™s Wings,â€ the ecstatic, riled-up climax of â€œFolds in Your Hands.â€ All part of a greater plan, the next step of which is taking Passion Pitâ€™s live show to a level that matches, and eventually exceeds, Mannersâ€™ ambition and kaleidoscopic soundscapes. Because when Angelakos says he wants to be the next Randy Newman, heâ€™s dead serious. And when he adds that Passion Pit is â€œa band with a lead songwriter, not just Michael Angelakos and these guys,â€ itâ€™s clear heâ€™s just getting started.