PASSION PIT – Manners (Columbia)

Like The Answering Machine and Dirty Projectors, Passion Pit are a new band to me, and have been receiving a lot of good reviews for this album, so I owe it to myself to check them out. They are a Boston five-piece who make a sort of indie/pop/rock sound, and this is their debut album. The first thing I noticed on the opening track ‘Make Light’ is the falsetto vocals, and if they carried on for the rest of the album then I would have a hard time liking this. The song itself is a good summery pop/rock song with a catchy hook, and is well played by the band, but that voice just puts me off. Unfortunately there it is again in ‘Little Secrets’, which is another really good song – actually even better than the first one - spoiled by an irritating vocal. ‘Moth’s Wings’ is much better, showing that Michael Angelakos can rein it in if he wants, and the song sounds so much better for it. Luckily for me the rest of the songs are sung in a more appealing register, and so I have to put those first two aberrations behind me and give the band a second chance. Some intriguing electronic effects herald ‘The Reeling’, another fine indie-pop track, welcoming the return of the Linn drum (!), and with a children’s choir contributing some good backing vocals. ‘To Kingdom Come’ is another up-tempo indie-pop gem, with a large helping of electro thrown into the mix, and ‘Swimming In The Flood’ has some great electronic drums and a lush sound suiting the slower pace of the song perfectly. This is followed swiftly by ‘Fold In Your Hands’, which breaks the mood rather abruptly with its quirky vocal effects and Hot Chip disco keyboards. For me ‘Eyes As Candles’ is a highlight of the album, if only because it shows that the band can write and play songs that don’t rely on gimmicks and electronic effects. It has some nice keyboards on the intro, a memorable melody and good hook, the choir is used sparingly, and the vocal performance is excellent. Unfortunately it is the exception rather than the rule here, and when Alvin & The Chipmunks make an appearance on ‘Sleepyhead’ I am ready to give up. They make an effort to pull it back with ‘Let Your Love Grow Tall’, with its anthemic chorus enhanced by the kid’s choir, and the album closes with another reasonable effort in ‘Seaweed Song’, but they are not enough to convince me that this is an album that should be on constant rotation on my turntable. I can’t say I am a great fan of this sort of electro/pop/rock/disco sound, and have never really taken to Hot Chip or The Rapture, but if it is done well then I can always find something to enjoy in it. This album, however, is just so full of gimmicks and eccentricities that it detracts from the music rather than adding to it and I don’t think I can listen to it again and ignore these failings. Give it a try if you like Hot Chip, but otherwise avoid.
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