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Album review: Passion Pit, 'Gossamer'

***1/2 (out of four)

I really didn’t want to like Passion Pit’s latest album, “Gossamer.” I’m still having flashbacks from 2009-2010 when repeated plays of “Sleepyhead” ruined every party I attended, and when everyone was grumbling about how boring the rest of the “Manners” album was. How much more could this five-piece band really offer after such a surge of success from one singular pop anthem hit?

A lot, as it turns out.

Born out of a “Hey, why not?” thought from frontman Michael Angelakos, Passion Pit goes much deeper for its sophomore effort, with Angelakos leading the charge to open some salty wounds from his troubles with alcoholism, depression and the ilk that often accompany overnight success. The album, as a whole, polishes Passion Pit’s earworm pop aesthetic with at least two or three tracks destined for dance party soundtrack status.

It’s not easy to notice if you’re whiplashing your hair back and forth while dancing to it, but if you listen in more of a stationary position, you’ll notice “Gossamer” manages to pull off being both one of the most delicious pop albums of the year and one of the better examples of how to chronicle a personal breakdown via pop music.

The first single, “Take a Walk,” is pretty much how every band wants to kick off an album—thump, thump, thump, infectious chorus! It has the potential to kick summer hits like Fun.’s “We Are Young” out of the club for a bit, which will be a welcome change. Angelakos’ voice is much more refined this time around. Synthesized and auto-tuned, it comes through in tracks like “Constant Conversations”—even beneath choruses apparently comprised of pixies and fairies(?).

“Constant Conversations” is also where, if you need something a little more literal, we really understand the level of breakdown we’re hearing: “You’re standing in the kitchen. And you’re pouring out my drink. There’s a very obvious difference, and that’s that one of us can think. / Tonight you’ve got me cornered, and I’ve got nowhere else to go.”

From there, the album chronicles, almost chronologically, a man’s descent into depression and the slow rise up out of it. The optimistic chorus of “On My Way” signifies exactly what you’d think it does, referencing beating those demons Angelakos has been fighting, while “Hideaway” explores the idea of finding that shelter from the storm slowly subsiding in one’s own head.

Don’t be confused: There isn’t much variety, here. With the exception of slower jams like “Where We Belong” closing out the album, it’s synth hard or go home. But it’s also pop, in the 2010s era, at its finest. It’s MGMT without the pretentious image.

On the surface, it’s dance-pop for dummies. Beneath that surface, it’s heartbreak hotel.

jgalliart@tribune.com | @jessicagalliart

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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