Summer has unceremoniously slapped us Valley residents in the face, making us long for those sub-100 degree days that October will eventually bring. Thank goodness there are bands like Passion Pit releasing albums that make for the perfect summer soundtrack. The quintet, based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, have crafted a delightful little splendor of indie pop/rock/electropop called Manners for your listening pleasures. The band whet everyone's appetite with their song "Sleepyhead," a perfect debut that showcased the band's pop sensibilities with electronic influences, all glued together by Michael Angelakos trademark singing style: a wavering falsetto/high-pitched take on today's whiny indie rock singing style. The dude's got some serious chops, and his vocals are what carries the album into the upper echelon of 2009's indie pop/rock albums.
The band's debut EP, Chunk of Change, was released in September to much acclaim. The six songs that constitute the EP were originally meant as a Valentine's Day gift for Angelakos' then- girlfriend, and they quickly became a hit at nearby Emerson College. "Sleepyhead," the lead single off the EP, landed in spots for Canadian PSPs and even MTV -- a surprising move by the network to feature music that some 12 year old girls may not know about.
Today sees the release of the band's debut LP, Manners. The album picks up right where the EP left off, even improving on many aspects of the band's sound that were there in the EP but weren't quite polished. Manners kicks off with the insanely-appropriate opener "Make Light," a tune that instantly shows just what exactly Passion Pit sounds like and what the rest of the album is going to be. Passion Pit is not a band ashamed to throw in the synths and samples with the traditional indie rock setup, and I am forever thankful for that. Yeah, they could be five dudes who love beards and flannel, moping around in their dingy apartment and writing songs about nature, adding absolutely zero originality to today's indie rock scene -- but they're not. Instead, they have crafted indie pop/rock gems that would fit perfectly onto a soundtrack of a movie about college kids finding themselves -- with plenty of drinking and sex-driven romps.
The second track, "Little Secrets," perfectly combines light, airy synths with Nate Donmoyer's infectuous, stomp-inducing drumming. Angelakos' trademark vocals are present, as always, yet he is joined in the chorus by a...chorus of little children singing "Higher and higher and higher / Higher and higher and higher." It's a catchy tune that manipulates that formula of synth/electro-pop that gets the kids these days down and dirty on the dancefloor.
Then, ever so innocuously, along comes the lead single "The Reeling," and Manners takes off into a place I didn't think ever imagined. The song is so goddamn catchy and mellow, complete with the perfect mix of keys, drums and infecuous little synths. Angelakos' writing and his singing is at its peak in "The Reeling," especially when he laments, "Look at me oh look at me / Is this the way I've always been?" The song carries on, the drums and synths in perfect harmony, hearkening back to a time in the 1980s when synthpop ruled the world.
The album's last gasp is an impressive one, held together by "Sleepyhead," "Let Your Love Grow Tall" and "Seaweed Song." Manners is not without an occasional hiccup, but as I give it more and more listens, I am impressed by its overall quality and impressive production. Some may complain about Angelakos' singing style, and I can see where that concern comes in. It is not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, but it can be endearing and you cannot argue that it is vastly different from anything else on the scene today.
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So if you're looking for a break from all the conventional indie rock stylings, give Passion Pit a whirl. It is different enough to be able to charm even the staunchest of music snobs -- myself included.
Manners is out today on Frenchkiss Records. Head on over to the Passion Pit's myspace page to sample songs like "Sleepyhead" and "The Reeling," as well as the rest of the tracks off their debut album.
Please enjoy the music video for "The Reeling:"