As an internationally popular act, the main draw of Passion Pit’s music has always been the disharmony between music and lyrics. With songs about Michael Angelakos’ suffering from bipolar disorder, suicide attempts and relationship problems, the act of meshing them with hyperactive sugary instrumentals allowed the juxtaposition between these elements to make these dark topics slightly easier to swallow. This is a trend that continues with their latest album Kindred.
But while Kindred continues this trend, things aren’t as extreme as they used to be. Similar themes are still explored in the lyrics, but the music has been toned down to the point where it doesn’t take centre stage to Angelakos’ vocals or the words. At face value, it sounds like a change that would be to the benefit of the album. The old sound is still there, with songs often still featuring digitized synths and high pitched vocal samples that made Gossamer sound so deceitfully happy. In reality, the theory of the change working to the benefit of the album doesn’t play out this time.
Songs often feel emptier than they should, reaching for the levels of Gossamer but never really getting there. All I Want is full of elements and hints of going there, but it stays in its reserved state without breaking out of it. This is mimicked in My Brother Taught Me How to Swim, which brings the saccharine back into the chorus, but the bouncy verses bring it to a level that still feels like it’s missing something, bringing the energy and vibe to the song but none of the content.
Taking the childlike element that’s been so ingrained in the music of Passion Pit and turning it down almost has the opposite effect of what was intended, making it feel less sincere rather than more so. The material is still interesting, and the lyrics still have their usual punch to them, but the rest fails to match up. It’s the songs that truly reach back to the old ways, like Lifted Up (1985), Five Foot Ten (I) and to a lesser extent Whole Life Story, that prove this point. The energy, brightness and style are still there, and make it feel more like a Passion Pit album.
So rather than putting out a great album, Passion Pit have ended up doing something that was just okay. Angelakos surpasses his old work on two occasions, but the rest of the time holds the album back by restraining his personal style. It’s disappointing that such a slump had to occur, especially after the initial release of Lifted Up (1985), one of the strongest Passion Pit songs to date. Had the entire album been brought at least a little closer to the level of energy displayed in the lead single, it would have worked better. Kindred is still a good piece of work, but fails to reach the bar set by what came before it.