Behind Passion Pit’s glossy synth pop, there has always been a much darker tale. Michael Angelakos, who is the man solely behind the moniker, has been open about his struggles dealing with bipolar disorder – which he was diagnosed with when he was in his late teens – ever since the release of second album Gossamer in 2012. The revelation shed a completely new light on Passion Pit’s exuberant and highly polished pop sound.
It certainly resulted in many re-evaluating Angelakos’ debut under the Passion Pit name, 2009’s Manners, which delivered a euphoric collection of energetic pop tracks. The overproduction and high pitched vocals caused many to ignore the lyrics at the heart of the record, yet, in truth, it was a much darker than it actually sounded – a contrast that was even more thoroughly explored on Gossamer.
Three years on from the release of his last Passion Pit record – and despite admitting that he wasn’t sure whether he would ever return to the project – Angelakos is back with his third album, Kindred, which deals with his condition and the affect it has had on those around him head on. As a result, it is his most direct and honest record so far, with everything from the album’s artwork to the lyrics suggesting he is more focused than ever before.
This is clear from the moment the record’s delightfully uplifting opener, which is appropriately titled Lifted (1985), kicks in. It is almost anthemic in its execution, as Angelakos pays tribute to his wife over shiny, pulsating synths, singing: “1985 Was a good year/ the sky broke apart and you appeared/ dropped from the heavens, they call me a dreamer/ I won’t lie, I knew you would belong here.”
As is the case with the opener, there is no doubt that Kindred is a Passion Pit album. All of the qualities that made Angelakos’ first two records so infectious are still present, but there is an underlying purpose that cuts through this latest effort. Whole Life Story sees him address his wife once again, as he apologises for the attention he attracted in the immediate aftermath of talking about his condition. “Sorry darling,” he sings. “How could you forgive me when our life’s some story out for them to buy?”
While Angelakos reflects on some of the negatives that came from speaking more candidly, it seems to have had a positive impact on the recording process. Tracks such as All I Want (“I get the notion that I’m almost there… and with one motion it could all go wrong”) and the atmospheric, slow-burner Dancing On The Graves offer a clarity of thought that appears to have been assisted by his freedom to talk about his experiences.
This is also reflected in the sound of Kindred, which is far more stripped back than previous efforts. Where The Sky Hangs is largely concentrated around a very straightforward hook and the standard Passion Pit clapped beat, while Looks Like Rain is even more restrained – allowing Angelakos’ vocals to take centre stage. Until We Can’t (Let Go) is the closest he gets to the chaos of early singles like Sleepyhead, with its joyous chorus one of the most memorable moments on the record, yet it never feels out of place.
It is hard not to listen to Kindred without smiling. While Angelakos does deal with the difficult challenges has faced and how he has come out on the otherside, the record also manages to capture him growing as an artist as well. This is most literally represented by Five Foot Ten (I) and epic closer Ten Feet Tall (II), which ensures Kindred finishes on a high note. As Passion Pit albums go, it may not sound drastically different to what has gone before, but, nevertheless, it feels like a fresh start.