In the band’s 2012 commercial and critical success Gossamer, Passion Pit hid a veritable conglomerate of dark themes — from depression to alcoholism to suicide — beneath the album’s caffeine-infused pop vibes and frontman Michael Angelakos’ falsetto vocals. Angelakos has since been fairly open about his struggle with bipolar disorder and how it plays into the creation and continuation of Passion Pit as sort of a therapeutic music project.
After listening to the band’s latest album Kindred, it seems that Angelakos is in a much better place: The album tackles lighter concepts of nostalgia, acceptance and childhood love. Interestingly enough, the songs are less hurried and less excited than before, with muted production but without losing the essence of what made people fall in love with the band in the first place.
“Lifted Up (1985),” the opening track and first single of Kindred, doubles as a love letter to Angelakos’ wife, who was born in the titular year, and is an anthem of youthful love. “1985 was a good year / the sky broke apart and you appeared,” Angelakos sings over chiming synths, a reminiscent nod toward their previous singles but with more hope and romanticism than before. The accompanying music video shows a young boy at a family dinner, yearning to be somewhere else.
The second track on Kindred, “Where the Sky Hangs,” expands on the boy’s story with its music video, showing him lying in the grass with a young girl. “I get caught up in your heart strings / Way up, where another sky hangs / I’ll take all that I can get / just don’t make me go,” Angelakos quietly croons over smooth synths and soft strums.
Although the album has its trademark upbeat songs, such as “Five Foot Ten (I)” and “Whole Life Story,” Kindred shines with its stripped-down songs that round out the album and give it more substance. The minimalist production of “Looks Like Rain” highlights the angelic vocals and woos with its subtle harmony.
This isn’t to say that Kindred doesn’t have flaws, however. Although it ranks as arguably one of the most cohesive collections that Angelakos has put out, the glue holding the album together is frail. At points, the album lacks the punch that it needs, and consequently, some of the tracks fall prey to the the fast-forward button.
Passion Pit wades into foreign territory with Kindred. The album marks a shift in the sound that the band’s listeners are used to without fully losing the sound that makes Passion Pit, well, Passion Pit. Kindred isn’t the perfect album, but it’s an undeniable step in the right direction.