Last November, during an uncommonly candid conversation with novelist and burgeoning podcaster Bret Easton Ellis, Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos said he couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t hate himself. Angelakos also discussed his bipolar disorder and unequivocally came out as gay.
Those facts can’t help but inform listeners’ perception of Passion Pit, the musical outfit Angelakos founded in 2007 — the irony is that such exuberant, shiny music could spring from such apparent personal turmoil.
“The greatest part of Passion Pit is that people are dancing and singing along to these super-depressing lyrics — what better way to deal with that than in this populist sound?” Angelakos said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune late last year. “It’s like mainlining caffeine when you get to sing these songs in front of people who are just as into it as you are.”
Passion Pit’s third and most recent full-length album, 2015’s Kindred, bursts forth with maximalist effect, its 10 Synth Pop nuggets powered by surging keyboards, taut rhythms and Angelakos’ high-pitched vocals. Album opener “Lifted Up (1985)” sounds like French Pop masters Phoenix wired on Pixy Stix — the soaring chorus, in which Angelakos tells us that “1985 was a good year,” is potent enough to arouse Jeb “Please Clap” Bush. (For the record, Angelakos was born in 1987.)
The sweetly swaying “Where the Sky Hangs” brings to mind M83 fronted by the guys in Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark — its ’80s Pop romanticism wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of a vintage Molly Ringwald movie. “My Brother Taught Me How to Swim” seems to address Angelakos’ struggle to deal with his sexuality (he was previously married to a woman), but it could just as easily be about committing to a relationship of any kind, regardless of genders.
Then there’s “Dancing on the Grave,” in which Angelakos relays what now seems like a mission statement: “Someone told me that I’ve run too far away/Someone told me I should just give in and stay.”
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