Today’s review is brought you by the letter P.
And its sound?
There’s much to be said, and there’s much that has been said about the journey Pop music has taken in its lifetime. It’s an infinitely colourful chameleon, that has changed and changed back according to its surroundings, its decade, its economy, its climate, its generation, its drugs, its instruments and more. Not much is often said about where it will go, and the fantastical colours it might create.
There have been hints though, and I don’t mean the diet-RnB, Dance-lite or watered down Rap that currently conquers the charts. As good as they may or may not be, they’re not pop, they’re more easily digestible versions of their source material. No, what I’m referring to is actual pop music. The prophets of its future came in the shape of two bands on either side of the Atlantic; Klaxons and MGMT.
This may summon a few cries of outrage but hear me out. Nu-Rave stigmatism aside, when the Klaxons did Pop songs, they did Pop songs and they sounded like the future. An amalgamation of all that went before pushed forward through the now from the then to the there. MGMT on their singles achieved the same too; something familiar but something altogether new.
Klaxons got lost in Greek mythotholgy and up their own arses. MGMT took too much acid and travelled back in time. Our prophets fell by the way side of their own methods, and the past.
There was a third though. Lesser known; unlike Klaxons and MGMT, the charts were never set alight for Passion Pit. They buzzed in certain circles and online; a lot based around the track Sleepyhead.
In 2012 though they gift the world with Gossamer, their sophomore album. The album that took their peers from the limelight looks set to place them firmly within it. It’s clear since the release of Manners, their debut, they have been working on honing their craft and realising what they had hinted at on that album. With perfect timing too, this album is Summer.
I’ve been walking home from work the past few days with this album running through my iPod. It’s made the walk for me, sitting perfectly with the glorious Summer we’re actually having this week. Today though, today it really hit home; it’s Friday, it’s dress down, I’ve left work for the weekend, I handed my notice in earlier, the weather is sublime. I put my earphones in and press play.
Lead single Take a Walk aptly starts my walk home. Its pounding four/four stomp positively struts and I can’t help but follow suit. Its skittering synth line and invasive chorus can’t help but raise a smile in me. The lyrics? Oh, they tell a tale of a family man overwhelmed by life, work, family and financial failure. Weren’t expecting that were you?
It’s a juxtaposition though, that Passion Pit thrive on. Thanks in no small part to singer Michael Angelakos, whose lyrics and vocals are always ticking over on an emotional high, and an unbalanced one at that. It adds a depth though to the sugar rush of the densely layered songs, a bittersweet quality. Best described as one of those deep and personal conversations you’ll have on MDMA with a friend or a stranger; you’ve not just worn your heart on your sleeve but vomited it out over everything, and you’ve shared your deepest pains, fears, anxieties and insecurities but you can’t help but still feel that rush of euphoria fuelled by the drug. It’s not just that though, you feel lightened of your load and close to this person, you feel their empathy and it’s a release. So too is Gossamer.
Mirrored Sea for example features the refrain ‘everyone’s alone’ but it’s given a Daft Punk delivery, and sure the song’s got a minor key but the driven rhythm, the pulsing bass and the soaring synths make it positively rapturous. It’s melancholy you can dance to.
Dance-ability, is something this album has in spades too. Most notably in clear future singles that should, and would in a perfect World, cause a stir on the charts and the dancefloor like I’ll Be Alright with its cut and paste Pop that veers from robotic to humanly emotive by way of post-rock scope, The Flaming Lips’ soar and electro-pop squelch. Then you’ve got Carried Away that manages to have a hint of 80s synth pop, 00s indie pop and Yo Gabba Gabba! but still remain brilliant.
I know I made cracks about MGMT travelling back in time, and probably should’ve about Klaxons’ 80s/90s dance fixation, but of course there are going to be elements of what went before especially in today’s musical climate where apparently everything has been done. So I heard a rumour anyway. It’s how you incorporate them though that makes the difference.
Cry Like a Ghost takes a hip hop groove, a low-end electro brood that even wobbles but sounds like Justin Timberlake through an acid filter with a sprawling shoegaze-electronic indie chorus. On My Way sounds like it’s been torn straight from a musical written by Scissor Sisters until it starts sounding like Sgt. Pepper’s era Beatles covering Ben by Michael Jackson and Reach Out (I’ll Be There) by The Four Tops in the chorus. Where We Belong closes the album with a string laden cinematic melding of The Antlers, The Knife, M83 and Sleep Party People, as it asks ‘who says God exists?’
Not to condone drug use in anyway, or imply that Passion Pit do, but Pop music really came into its own when it got kaleidoscopic, and at this point in time when there is such a colourful tapestry of music behind us, what better time to hold it to the light and look through it with our kaleidoscope eyes. To the future.
Anyway, this is what Gossamer is;
Many small spiders use silk threads for ballooning, the popular, though technically inaccurate, scientific term for the dynamic kiting spiderlings (mostly) use for dispersal. They extrude several threads into the air and let themselves be carried away by winds. Although most rides will end a few yards later, it seems to be a common way for spiders to invade islands. Many sailors have reported that spiders have been caught in their ship’s sails, even when far from land. The extremely fine silk used by spiders for ballooning is known as Gossamer.