April 21 marked the official release of “Kindred,” the third studio album from synth-pop band Passion Pit. “Kindred” marks the first LP released by the Massachusetts band since “Gossamer,” released in July 2012. “Gossamer” was noticeably different from the band’s first album, “Manners,” with its shimmering sounds and catchy choruses. Although I expected a flashier album with “Kindred,” I really like the softer side of Passion Pit.
Fortunately, the band released an acoustic version of “My Brother Taught Me How To Swim” and it’s honestly fantastic. I’ve always considered Passion Pit to be in a genre of their own (because, seriously, who does beautiful, meaningful, explosive synth-pop like Passion Pit?) and this album displays Passion Pit’s creation of unique sounds. These sounds blend together in a meaningful and beautiful way, ultimately painting a picturesque story of love, family and the struggle with identity. Michael Angelakos has opened up numerous times about his bipolar disorder and health issues, and this album is a thank you to the love that comes from his kin — hence the name “Kindred.”
The album opens with a spark and a bang. The first song “Lifted Up (1985)” sounds soft at first before a soft scream repeats in typical Passion Pit style and acts as a preview to the song’s chorus. Angelakos reveres love as heavenly and angelic lyrics referring to heaven’s gates. The peak of the song is in Angelekos’ explosive roar: “1985 was a good year, the sky broke apart then you appeared.” The heavenly references continue as the title track “Lifted Up” literally refers to his love “dropping from the heavens” and being “lifted off the ground.” The song, likely about Angelakos’ wife, is highly metaphorical. Instead of his wife being born in 1985, Angelakos proclaims she fell from heaven.
Easily my favorite song on the album, “Whole Life Story” is a unique sound for Passion Pit. The song begins with a soft melody coupled with a typical electric bang and powerful bass line. The beginning is explosive but soon fades away as just the soft melody and Angelakos’ sweet vocals remain. “Whole Life Story” is the chapter after “Lifted Up (1985).” Although love is heavenly, sometimes love isn’t perfect. Angelakos sings of the couple’s facade (likely due to his mental health issues) and identity as a whole with the lines, “Now you’re stuck inside the world getting tangled in the lights. … They don’t know us, they don’t know me, they don’t know you.” This song is the reason why I’d call this a new sound for Passion Pit. The charming style is especially unique for the group.
Even the funky style featured in the next song “Where the Sky Hangs” is new. The song is a blend of modern indie-pop and the ‘70s. Heck, even the chorus sounds like it could be featured in a ‘70’s lovey-dovey montage. The funky riffs play as Angelakos proclaims, “I get caught up in your heartstrings.” Again, this style of music is incredibly different for Passion Pit, but this song in particular proves Passion Pit’s versatility.
“All I Want” gives the hopeless romantic in me chills when I listen to it. The song opens with the lyric “All I want” but that’s the only time it’s sang in the entire song. Rather, the chorus hums, “You’re all I’ll ever have.” The part that sinks my heart comes as the song closes. The synth stops and all we have is Angelakos and his piano ballad as he softly swoons, “I promise this: After each moment, just a kiss on your cheek or on your lips. That’s all we’ll ever have.”
“Five Foot Ten (I)” is another typical Passion Pit song, but fails to leave a mark on the album’s new style, just as “Dancing on the Grave” fails as well. Both songs do a great job of telling the story of love, life and hardships, but they don’t quite fit in with this style of the album.
One of the things I love most in an album is when a song ends but fades perfectly into the next song. It establishes continuity in the artwork that is the album. “Dancing on the Grave” fades out with a small hum, before the aural explosion that kicks off “Until We Can’t (Let’s Go).” This jubilant song is the last bouncy shot of adrenaline the album provides.
The album continues solemnly into “Looks Like Rain,” a song radiant with imagery. Explicitly about his depression, Angelakos explains that despite rivers bending, mountains peaking and flowers blooming, there are clouds around him and no one knows why. This song is a perfect prelude to thanking his family in the song “My Brother Taught Me How To Swim,” where Angelakos uses the rain imagery to paint a picture of a flood, before describing the love he feels from his family: “If I love the way my brother loves, none of it would happen like the way it was.” Angelakos does a great job of thanking his family with this song before ending the album with the bizarre “Ten Feet Tall (II).”
Overall, the album is a fantastic tribute to those who helped Angelakos through his tough times. Angelakos, now feeling “Ten Feet Tall,” recognizes the love and support from his kin. I’m very happy that Angelakos seems to be in a much place than he was when writing his depressingly powerful “Gossamer.” “Kindred” is a beautiful album that paints a picture of love and family in a brand new and unique style. As Angelakos described, mental health issues are incredibly serious, disturbing and discouraging to those affected. As Mental Health Awareness month approaches, it is important to remember to love those around us. “Kindred” is a fantastic piece of art. The music is beautiful and unique and the story it tells is just the same.