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Reviews

Passion Pit
Manners Darren Lee , June 2nd, 2009 08:57

Beware the curse of the internet buzz band: briefly fêted by the musical cognoscenti, they're slaves to the feckless whims of the blogosphere elite, seemingly only ever one lukewarm Pitchfork review away from industry pariahdom. Lesser talents than Passion Pit lynchpin Michael Angelakos might have been derailed by the hype accompanying last year's Chunk of Change EP and the weight of expectation heaped onto this debut album. It's to his credit that he's managed to match and at times surpass those expectations with a record of slow-burning potency.

If the beauty of that first EP was its melodic immediacy and laptop-powered lo-fi sensibilities, then debut album Manners marks a clear progression towards a more expansive sound, with the Passion Pit line-up expanded to a five-piece. It's a development which takes a bit of getting used to: upon first listen, there's a nagging suspicion that some of that organic exuberance may have been sacrificed in the process. But repeated exposure helps allay such fears, as intricately woven melodies creep surreptitiously into the consciousness and win you over. Opener 'Make Light' is ruddered by a propulsive bassline and builds to a state of frenzied MGMT-inspired delirium; 'Little Secrets' blends electro-twee arrangements with a child choir-bolstered chorus nabbed off the Go! Team; and recent single 'The Reeling' is a gloriously giddy rush of strung-out euphoria which calls to mind vintage 808 State.

Elsewhere 'Sleepyhead' — the song that created such an online stir when it first emerged last year — gets a subtle reworking but loses none of its wide-eyed wonder, that looped Mary O'Hara sample and hypnotic falsetto evoking an intoxicatingly woozy nostalgia. 'To Kingdom Come' is cut from a similar cloth, its retro Tomorrow's World synths, rousing chorus and winningly nonsensical lyrics about potpourri and orange peels suggesting a festival anthem in the making. Perhaps most surprising of all is closer 'Seaweed Song', which sounds like an acid-fried Brian Wilson collaborating with Giorgio Moroder.

Granted, harnessing soft rock harmonies to cerebral electronica has become somewhat de rigueur in 2009, but Passion Pit's stylish, sample-laden pop tapestry is infinitely more adventurous and appealing than the mannered synth fetishism of, say, Empire of the Sun or Ladyhawke. Manners is a record that seamlessly reconciles its esoteric influences with a refreshing mainstream nous, and definitively kicks any knee-jerk internet backlash into touch.

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