To get the most out of Passion Pit’s debut album, you will need: a healthy appetite for sugary keyboard riffs, plenty of enthusiasm for falsetto vocals, and a large space in which to dance around like crazy. Having gathered these things, you can dive straight into Manners and experience all the colours promised by the album’s cover art. This is music that isn’t afraid of a bit of fluoro.
But once you’ve danced around the room a few times and flopped down on the couch, you might start to notice that there’s darkness in Passion Pit’s world as well. In between those insistent beats and sparkling keyboards, composer Michael Angelokos is asking questions like, "Is this the way my life has got to be?" and "Why do I always need to need you when you’re fleeting?," or simply requesting that we leave him alone.
Angelokos launched Passion Pit three years ago as "a humble one-man multi-track laptop project" from his college dorm room. Since then, he has managed to create Manners and gather a band to perform the album live. Passion Pit even had a hit on the Billboard Heatseekers chart with "Sleepyhead," which made it to number nine.
Passion Pit’s website describes Manners as "baroque and intricate in its construction," which sums up both its appeal and its main stumbling block. There’s enough going on here to sustain multiple listens, but perhaps too much for us to ever really get a grip on the emotion behind the material. Angelokos is in there somewhere, but more often than not, he’s obscured by the blinding brightness of his music.
If the emotion on Manners is hard to make out, its take on gender is all but buried. While Angelokos is generally singing to or about a "you," the identity of this person—like much of the album’s lyrical content—remains a complete mystery.
It’s only as the album winds down that we finally get a glimpse of the Angelokos behind the beats and sparkles. The acoustic versions of "Sleepyhead" and "Moth’s Wings" reveal a thoughtful, reflective man with a sweet, soaring voice, while the final track, a cover of The Cranberries’ "Dreams," suggests either a love of early nineties pop or a wicked sense of humour. All this points to one conclusion: we need to hear more from Passion Pit.