Release Date: May 19, 2009
Although technically released in 2007, the debut of MGMT left their indelible mark on 2008 with three unbelievably strong singles, one released right after the other as their fan base grew at alarmingly exponential rates. Now in 2009, Cambridge, Mass. outfit Passion Pit is shaping up to be the year’s MGMT...in so many words.
What draws the immediate MGMT comparisons is the irresistibly catchy electro-pop nature of their sound. However, Passion Pit turns it all up to eleven, oozing unbridled exuberance on a majority of the tracks. The album cuts right to the chase with one track after the other that simply demand the listener’s attention. No beating around the proverbial, nonsexual bush here: Passion Pit involve a sense of immediacy in their tracks and toss in a hook or beat that will be unforgettable for days. This oversimplified evaluation cannot quite apply to the entire album, but it more or less holds water. Notice the “entire album” portion of the previous sentence. Unlike MGMT, every goddamn song is stellar. There are no holes, no deadweight, no valleys on Manners. The album can be played on repeat ad nauseum without the trigger-finger reflex of changing any particular track.
The eleven tracks of their debut pour on the charm in a variety of ways, but in the end, it is their unabashed ability to stick in one’s mind in whatever way possible. Ten seconds into the album, “Make Light” develops one of those trademark, upbeat synth segments that, when it fades for the verse, makes the wait for the chorus interminable. “Little Secrets” has a nice retro feel, featuring a chorus of children happily chiming in “Higher and higher and higher!” The MGMT sound is definitely prevalent here, as is a little “D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice, and the concoction is forever catchy. Single “The Reeling” is so textbook hooky, it makes sense that it was chosen as the single. Not everything evokes immediate attention, however: “Swimming in the Flood” begins with a soothing string section before the modest synth back beat enters, creating a truly memorable slow-burning electro-pop gem. It is not over-the-top ecstatic, but it shouldn’t be, as it throws some variety into the mix while still maintaining the fundamentals of the album. The tinge of melancholy on “Eyes as Candles” also slows things down a bit, swelling at every turn of the chorus with the intermittent orchestra sounds and opening hook playing over each other. The true cyclic nature of the album comes to fruition towards the end, as “Sleepyhead” turns up the excitement and energy once again as a slightly twisted, mostly delightful lullaby.
Without question, the album has the feel of all-or-nothing: If Passion Pit’s core sound (catchy electro-pop with high-pitched vocals) is your cup of tea, then you’ll likely enjoy every single song on the album. If not, you will hate it. Simple as that. However, Passion Pit make it awfully difficult not to oblige and join the fun that they are cooking. Everyone talks about Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear (and now Dirty Projectors!) among the inane and premature album of the year babble. Wherever they may end up, Passion Pit have created a truly memorable, utterly addicting, and repeatedly replayable debut that demands discussion among the year’s big hitters.
Ed. Note: I cannot even begin to count how many times I typed “Passion Put” in this article….