Passion Pit - Gossamer

‘Gossamer’ is one giant juxtaposition that can’t quite sit comfortably.


Gossamer is, besides being the chosen title of the album in question, another name for spider silk. It’s pretty versatile stuff, and spiders, the clever little blighters, can single-handedly weave it into all manner of things; intricate webs, trip wires, parachutes, nests, hammocks, rope ladders (alright, not the last two, but the point still stands). ‘Gossamer’, then, seems the perfect title for Passion Pit’s second album, an intricate sound net, pieced meticulously together by the equally versatile Michael Angelakos – frontman, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist rolled into one.

‘Manners’ cemented the distinctive style we heard in the band’s debut EP ‘Chunk Of Change’, and after hearing the plethora of saturated synthesisers and sped-up Alvin & The Chipmunk-esque vocals, many people hold a very specific idea of what Passion Pit is all about. ‘Gossamer’ isn’t a complete departure – on ‘Cry Like A Ghost’, for example, the vocals reach familiar, and impressive levels of falsetto – trumping even Minnie Riperton’s blood-curdlingly shrill note in ‘Lovin’ You’ (ask your parents; they’ll be haunted by it). ‘Gossamer’ sticks mainly to the higher registers, but there’s a little more diversity. Opener ‘Take A Walk’ begins with some organs that would be equally at home on a Beach House record, and also sees Angelakos singing with vocals that are, by his standards, positively Basso buffo. There’s a staggering attention to detail on this album too – the frontman estimates that there are over 200 instrumental layers.

The other thing with spider silk is that while it might look pretty glinting in the morning dew, it’s actually a purpose-built trap. In the same way, Passion Pit’s ‘Gossamer’ might seem sweetness and light, but it’s really quite depressing. Granted, Angelakos and his cheerful androgynous choir haven’t morphed into Joy Division, but here they seem discontent and undecided – clashing excessive optimism with lyrical pessimism at every opportunity. The second single ‘I’ll Be Alright’ appears like a hyperactive toddler high on smarties, but when Angelakos wrote it in an eight-hour sitting he was exhausted, suffering from chronic fatigue - what he cites as “a lot of alcohol… just a really bad time”. With the dark, anxious lyrics (‘I’m so self-loathing that it’s time for me to see / Reality from what I dream and no one believes me”) it’s far from a cheery pop ditty.

‘Manners’ was undoubtedly a very strong debut, guided through the relevant channels quickly to meet the massive demand. Angelakos’ feet simply didn’t have time to touch the ground to pause for thought, and perhaps that is why their first full-length seems so carefree in comparison. ‘Gossamer’ is entirely different. This second effort has been written by a man who was whisked away by the overnight success of his debut, and has now been given time to reflect. There’s something almost bipolar about this album – it squeaks and trills its way through uplifting melodies, whilst putting a brave face and superficial glaze on the anxiety concealed in the lyrics. If ‘Manners’ left us sure we knew what Passion Pit stood for, ‘Gossamer’ smashes that apart and casts our happy perceptions into doubt. While this second album seems genuine, and at times very good, it just doesn’t excite and satisfy in quite the same way as the spontaneous creativity of the debut. ‘Gossamer’ is one giant juxtaposition that can’t quite sit comfortably.

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