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


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

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.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

Ahead of Offa Rex's Newport Folk Festival set, Olivia Chaney talked about the collaboration with the Decemberists.

I was lucky enough to catch two of Offa Rex's performances this past summer, having been instantaneously won over by the lead single and title track from the record, The Queen of Hearts. The melodious harmonium intro on the track is so entrancing, I didn't want to miss their brief tour. The band had only scheduled a few dates due in part to other commitments and perhaps limited by their already busy schedules, the Decemberists are actively touring and had their own festival in the summer while and their friend, "sublime English vocalist" Olivia Chaney, had arrived from across the pond.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.