Passion Pit

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Passion Pit's mode of operation on their debut album, Manners, appears to be to juxtapose the giddiest music possible with some truly dark and self-searching lyrics. It's a classic trick that will have you singing along happily to the sound of confusion, sadness, and the torment of one man's mind. You can dig below the sweet falsetto of vocalist/songwriter Michael Angelakos, the rollicking and joyful tunes, and the glittering, shiny surfaces that the group and producer Chris Zane painstakingly create and absorb the insights and feelings of Angelakos' words or not, because the record is satisfying either way -- especially if a record that combines Animal Collective's twee-est moments, Mercury Rev's most cotton-candied jams, the paisley-fied soul of Prince, and the synth pop hookiness of New Order sounds like a good idea to you. As if that weren't enough, they also bring '80s funk influences on the super catchy "Little Secrets" and a slick and pleasing '80s pop sound on a track like "To Kingdom Come" (which would have sounded perfect wedged between Peter Gabriel and INXS on a modern rock radio playlist back in 1986), and made sure to include the song from the previous EP that made people take notice of the band in the first place, the otherworldly "Sleepyhead." Add lots of glitch-pop sound manipulation for a modern sheen, live drums for a human heartbeat under all the Technicolor wall of sound, and a children's choir on a couple songs for extra innocence, and you have a record that could have been a total clustercrash of influences and sounds that ended up sounding hollow and pointless. Instead, thanks to the meticulous production values, the insane catchiness of the hooks, and the pure and true emotional underpinnings below all the gloss, the album is a total success of both sound and vision.

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