By Carter G. Shelter
Part of what made Passion Pit’s last album, 2012’s “Gossamer,” so compelling was the fact that the subject matter stemmed from frontman Michael Angelakos’ experience dealing with depression and bipolar disorder. He concocted a beautiful contrast of dark and deeply personal lyrics with catchy upbeat music that just begged for repeated listens.
On “Kindred,” Angelakos’ lyrics follow his personal path to a healthier place in life. They still carry the same weight and depth that make Passion Pit more intriguing than other indietronica and synth-pop acts; however, instead of focusing on what’s bad about bad things, Angelakos tackles something more challenging: the struggles and obstacles one must tackle on the road through recovery to happiness.
Lyrics are littered throughout the album that indicate the effect that Angelakos’ wife has had on improving his life. In the opening song (and first single) “Lifted Up (1985),” he likens her to an angel, saying, “The sky broke apart and you appeared.” In “Whole Life Story,” he apologizes for the effect that his life in the public eye has had on her. He sings, “Sorry darling, how could you forgive me when our life’s whole story’s out for them to buy.” As the album title suggests, this is record is not just about his romantic life, but also about family and the people he keeps close.
Angelakos’ lyrics have a way of making the listener feel as though they are listening in on some private conversation or confession. Even on the catchiest songs on “Kindred,” it’s like those choruses are being repeated because he needs to sing it that many times to get his point across to whomever he happens to be singing to, rather than because it makes for a damn good pop song.
Musically, “Kindred” has a number of highlights, including a phenomenal string of four songs on the back half of the album from “Five Foot Ten (I)” to “Looks Like Rain.” The latter is a quieter number that is maybe the album’s only real ballad. “Whole Life Story” and “Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)” sound the most like 2012 Passion Pit, with quivering jittery synths and easily danceable, hook-filled falsetto choruses.
Where “Gossamer” seemed to delight in the contrarian way it mixed music and lyric, “Kindred” seems to find a way to make these bright synths and dance floor beats perfectly match the stories being told. Emotions and music seem to blend into one, instead of combating each other. Halfway through the record, on “Five Foot Ten (I),” Angelakos, reflecting on “summers in our second home,” sings over a building of bass drum that, at the end, explodes into a chaotic cluster of synths:
“I can see you yelling and throwing your rings at me
Well I never stopped trying to be better than that
And I’m getting so close to where I want to be at
You can depend on me, you can rely on me
But every once in a while I’d rather be
It’s one of the most direct remarks Angelakos makes about his recovery. He does nothing to cover up that while he’s come a long way, he’s not quite there yet. Maybe the next Passion Pit album will show us what he’s like when he’s finally gotten there. Or maybe it won’t. Life rarely works so linearly.
Carter G. Shelter is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.