Music

Passion Pit: Gossamer

The Boston buzz band's second full-length of shout-along electropop is as scrappy, outsized, and infectious as anyone could hope for, and as shrill and cloying as anyone could expect.


Passion Pit

Gossamer

Label: Columbia
US Release Date: 2012-07-24
UK Release Date: 2012-07-23
Amazon
iTunes

Bloggers were early adopters, colleges made them a staple, and critics swear by them live, but you could be forgiven if the fuss over Passion Pit continues to mystify you. Not that it was any surprise when Columbia swooped them up after only an EP: the Boston quintet’s brand of loud, lush, lovesick, shout-along electropop has all the high fructose gratification of Coca Cola, and about as much nuance. It’s sensitive like emo, but danceable like Gary Glitter, which means it’s catnip for the kids and so, too, for the majors. But the same qualities that endear Passion Pit to so many make them exhausting for everyone else. Gossamer, their second release for Columbia, despite minor maturations, isn’t set to change that, which is to say it preaches to the converted: it’s as scrappy, outsize, and infectious as anyone could hope for, and as shrill and cloying as anyone could expect.

For the unconverted, the album’s best moments will probably be its most austere. Caveat emptor: there are no austere moments. There are, however, a couple tracks just lean and tight enough to merit the attention their anthemic hooks reward. The first is the third, “Carried Away,” which hits the ground running with one synth warbling, another keeping time, and one more for good measure, and builds to the most exuberant of the album’s many exuberant choruses. The second is the fourth, “Constant Conversations,” which is also the album’s third single, and, with the help of three pitch-corrected Swedes called Erato, the band’s first honest-to-goodness neo-soul slow jam. What “Conversations” and “Carried” share is not only solid songwriting, but a faith in that alone, rather than the layered bells and whistles stuffing every gap everywhere else -- the aforementioned “Carried” chorus notwithstanding.

Those bells and whistles – and Rolands, Casios, guitars, effects pedals, real drums, fake drums, and Scandinavian sirens – take the fore on the album’s second half, which is comprised seamlessly of syrupy, gauzy epics. (Hence the otherwise non sequitor name?) The ambition is admirable, but save for a 30 second a capella from said sirens, not a single one jumps out of the shimmery, hyperactive mix. The album’s first half fares better by comparison, if only slightly; an orchestral swell giving way to a post-punk guitar groove opens “Take a Walk” with a nod to Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere,” for example, and “Cry Like a Ghost” is nearly another R&B bullseye, but like most of Gossamer, overproduction and one too many ooh-ooh oooohs compromise both. According to Brent DiCrescenzo’s gushy puff piece on the band, a combination of perfectionism and maximalism could be to blame for such sonic overabundance. Passion Pit’s vocalist and creative figurehead, Michael Angelakos, is notorious for subjecting each song to a dozen re-edits, and from the sound of it, subtraction is not a prominent part of his editing process.

DiCrescenzo tacitly celebrates this as the outcome of the same youthful passion that energizes the band’s music, and that, in the end, may be the strongest limit to its appeal. The same piece introduces Angelakos crying himself into the hospital after a performance in Austin. Presumably, this public volatility – articulated by and as his trademark falsetto – provides, in conjunction with biographical details including the usual breakups and substance abuse, emotional gravity and specificity to material that otherwise lacks it (save for “Take a Walk,” an account of Angelakos’ father’s days as a flower seller). Many listeners find this stuff very meaningful. But, once again, you’d be forgiven for failing to muster up much sympathy for manchild syndrome writ large, even if the gratingly catchy music behind it – bearing a Berklee pedigree, although you’d hardly know it – almost makes you want to. As objectively as possible, then, let it be said that between Gossamer and its much-beloved predecessor, Manners, Gossamer is the better record. The faithful will love it; the skeptics, not so much. All this unconverted critic can do is acknowledge both receptions, and split the difference.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Film

Alastair Sim: A Very English Character Actor Genius

Alastair Sim belongs to those character actors sometimes accused of "hamming it up" because they work at such a high level of internal and external technique that they can't help standing out.

Music

Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers Head "Underwater" in New Video (premiere)

Celebrating the first anniversary of Paper Castle, folksy poppers Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers release an uplifting new video for opening track, "Underwater".

Music

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's New LP Is Lacking in Songcraft but Rich in Texture

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Mosaic of Transformation is a slightly uneven listen. It generally transcends the tropes of its genre, but occasionally substitutes substance for style.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1996 Album 'All Set' Sees the Veteran Band Stretching Out and Gaining Confidence

After the straightforward and workmanlike Trade Test Transmissions, Buzzcocks continued to hone their fresh identity in the studio, as exhibited on the All Set reissue contained on the new box-set Sell You Everything.

Books

Patrick Madden's 'Disparates' Makes Sense in These Crazy Times

There's no social distancing with Patrick Madden's hilarious Disparates. While reading these essays, you'll feel like he's in the room with you.

Music

Perfume Genius Purges Himself and It's Contagious

You need to care so much about your art to pack this much meaning into not only the words, but the tones that adorn and deliver them. Perfume Genius cares so much it hurts on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.

Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump White House -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.