Saturday, July 28, 2012

Gossamer

I've been dreading Passion Pit's follow-up to the stellar Manners since I saw them at the Congress Theatre in April 2010. It was that evening that I first registered feeling old at a concert. (I was 25.) As I saw the fans show up en masse, in sequins, ready to dance, I felt a pang of disequilibrium. It struck me that this style of music, a kind of electro-pop revival as I'd heard it explained, would always make me feel unhip. I didn't want to dance. I was a fan of the band's obsessive orchestration, of Michael Angelakos's taste in getting the perfect timbre for every voice and instrument. I was interested in how they would recreate that sound onstage. The group did not disappoint. It was a one-hour set, and they milked every minute of it.

But as I left the show, I couldn't help but wonder about the group of us standing erect up in the balcony, while a throbbing, shimmering crowd of perhaps what was our former selves had a supremely physical experience below. I wondered, too, about in which direction the band would move next. I had a foreboding sense that, by the time I was 27, the first shiny synth riffs of the sophomore album would turn me away, telling me this was party music for a younger set. I was sure Passion Pit would finally reveal itself as what I had always suspected: some immature fad that I had mistaken for art.

Then I heard "Constant Conversations" from Gossamer and I heard once again what I had never actually put a name to the first time: sophistication. This is inspired music that does not just have ties to synth-pop. You can hear it as soon as the beat cuts out after some intro bars to reveal that whispered "uh-huh". The "never leave" refrain is chopped up in all the right spots. The muffled hand-clap/snare doesn't appear on every expected two- and four-beat. Angelakos even put in a tinkly little piano run to bookend his delivery of "I never meant to hurt you baby" halfway through the first verse. I could go on and on.

 It's hard to avoid an over-reliance on musical labels at this point in the review, because what I really want to say is that "Constant Conversations" is a soul song. It's an R&B song, really, and it's an excellent R&B song at that. It encapsulates what you can hear on the other songs on this album. While the rest of the playlist tends toward pop, the tracks all share the same musical restraint. The band delivers excellent songs with complex production, but take care not to crowd the tracks with extraneous parts. Instead, small musical details are developed to accentuate the basic core of each composition. These songs would sound excellent on an acoustic guitar. But they sound better like this.

So I guess I had these guys wrong a few years ago. If Gossamer is better than Manners, it's because of the musical and emotional maturity that I predicted wouldn't exist. Angelakos knew better than to write a thin batch of synth songs. And I suspect the more one listens to this album, the more it will be characterized by its haunting lyrical content. Self-doubt, anxiety, and the strains of trying to preserve fledgling relationships, in the end, make this more an album for young adults than I could ever have anticipated. Angelakos recently posted on the band's website that they've had to cancel some tour dates due to concerns for his mental health. I do wish him well.

 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mighty Narrow Spins Again

With the goal of getting a few more DJ gigs, Mighty Narrow has a SoundCloud page. The two tracks are original productions of mine, though I may think of putting up blends between other artists' tracks if I think they are particularly worth listening to. The track below samples CAN, the Delfonics, and Aretha Franklin.

Thursday, July 5, 2012