Review: Passion Pit, "Manners"

May 19, 2009


In his quest to woo a crush at Boston's Emerson College, singer and songwriter Michael Angelakos recorded six songs in 2007 under the name Passion Pit. The resulting EP, "Chunk of Change," failed to win the girl, but it did yield a song called "Sleepyhead" that eventually racked up more than a million and a half hits on MySpace, ultimately leading to a record deal, a full-fledged quintet for live performances and a full-length debut album. The first part of that Romantic story is as old as time itself; the second, an increasingly familiar tale in the post-download era. But the 11 songs on this album nonetheless offer some of the freshest sounds on the current indie-pop scene.

Unrepentant college geeks and preppies, Passion Pit draws inspiration from '80s disco the way Vampire Weekend takes its cues from "Graceland"-style Afro-pop, but with none of the preciousness or pretensions. Songs such as the re-recorded "Sleepyhead," "Little Secrets" and "The Reeling" are irrepressible in their exuberance even as the lyrics flow from the poor, poor pitiful me school of lovers spurned. Gliding along on slightly clumsier and more human New Order rhythms, drenched in colorful washes of chiming synthesizers, adorned with occasional choral harmonies and crowned by the 21-year-old Angelakos' you'd-swear-he's-a-woman falsetto vocals, "Manners" arrives just in time to provide the perfect summer dance-party soundtrack.