Exitmusic's full-length debut, Passage, picks up where the duo's From Silence EP left off, delivering more beautifully moody songs full of dark, whispery verses and soaring choruses. While Devon Church's way with atmospheric sounds shines throughout the album -- particularly on "The City"'s torchy guitars and "The Wanting"'s hypnotic pull -- it's Aleksa Palladino's vocals that are Passage's star. Her throaty, vibrato-heavy voice is something of an acquired taste in its louder moments, but this intensity is what brings Exitmusic's songs down to earth. Much like Beach House's Victoria Legrand, she's able to transform gloom into intimate beauty, particularly on "The Night" and "Sparks of Light," where she sighs, "We are all sparks of light/But we hide it." Indeed, Exitmusic are at their most powerful here when they find that spark amidst all the darkness, as they do on the album's title track and the returning From Silence standout "The Modern Age," which is as gorgeous and anthemic as ever, with an uplifting kind of sadness and mysterious but palpable sense of loss recalling the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in one of their more somber moods. Just when it seems that Exitmusic's contrasts between loud and soft and bright and dark might become formulaic, Church and Palladino change things up with the softer-than-soft "Stars," where distant, thundering drums and subtle electronics prove that the duo can succeed in the midrange of its sounds as well as its extremes. An impressive debut, Passage has as many great moments as it does moments that suggest future greatness.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares