This article was originally published to The Edge on 21st April 2015
Electro-pop is hot again, after recent years have seen new and old artists representing the genre. CHVRCHES dominated with their debut, Purity Ring’s sophomore album this year made waves, and now Passion Pit have returned with their third album Kindred. Michael Angelakos’ one-man band has shed a lot of the weirdness of Manners, while the darkness of Gossamer is balanced out in the latest album. If the timing is right, this could launch Passion Pit onto the A lists across the UK, and get them more recognition than ever. The music of Kindred is best adapted to that. The question is, is that a good thing?
Yes. Kindred may be more restrained than Manners, yet the synth driven noise is still a wild contrast to more controlled and strapped-down styles of pop music. It is energetic and layered, often overpowering Angelakos’ voice, so that the heartfelt lyrics are sometimes lost in the mix. The verses of ‘Ten Feet Tall’ are a prime example of this; maybe it was in an effort to sneak the swearing past the ears of parents, however more mature listeners will miss out on the meaning without the lyrics to hand. Luckily what you can hear of the music is delightful, even if it outdoes the vocals.
What makes Kindred less weird than previous albums is a slight indulgence in more typical structures. Opening track ‘Lifted Up (1985)’ is the best example of this, following a pattern laid out by many Calvin Harris and David Guetta tracks before it. It builds in the verse, packs on the keyboard sounds in the chorus over a relentless drum-beat, and falls back down before the final chorus throws it all in the air again. Describing having hope in a struggle, the line “I fight so hard and come back beaten/but the beacon will burn through it brightly,/you’ll soar through a sliver of space” it is clear that Angelakos’ wife is that hope. It is fitting to wrap a melody so grippingly exuberant and upbeat around lyrics of equal sentiment. Later track ‘Until We Can’t (Let’s Go) outdoes ‘Lifted Up’ for sheer energy. Despite darker lyrics in the verse, the chorus always returns to lift spirits. Its epic-ness is far less surprising when you learn that Hans Zimmer (seriously) collaborated with Angelakos and Benjamin Levin in its writing.
These forays into popular territory do not hurt Kindred in the slightest. They act as welcome breaks from slower, more laid-back, and definitely more down beat material. ‘Looks Like Rain’ is a fascinating example. Despite the simplistic and unchanging rhythms of it that make it feel easy and relaxed, the words that leave Angelakos’ mouth in his birdsong voice form something disturbing and at times bleak. As it all comes to a dreamy close, he sings how “The air shattered like glass and fell like crystals on your face/I took you in my arms and I could hear you saying grace”; it is enough to keep you awake at night. A dark track which reminds the listener in the know that Angelakos has suffered from severe mental illness in the past, and still does to this day. With that kind of darkness in his life, Kindred’s frequent lighter moments are a complete and pleasant surprise.
Kindred is out now via Columbia Records