On their first two efforts—2009’s Manners and 2012’s Gossamer—Passion Pit established themselves at the forefront of earnest, retro-influenced synthpop with their bright keyboards and mastermind Michael Angelakos’ ebullient, infectious falsetto. With Kindred, Angelakos follows firmly in suit, offering another 10 tracks full of synthesizers and pop melodies.
Three albums in, Passion Pit still delivers some immediate sugar-rush pop confections on tracks like the nostalgic lead single “Lifted Up (1985),” yet these moments aren’t as abundant as they were on their terrific debut Manners. While “Lifted Up (1985)” is a tight, soaring single, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Manners’ “Little Secrets” or Gossamer’s “Carried Away.” Much of the album falls into more mid-tempo territory with “Whole Life Story” and “All I Want” being fairly characteristic of Kindred as a whole.
Yet, Passion Pit isn’t the same band that recorded Manners and Gossamer, quite literally. Beyond Angelakos recruiting all-new band members, Kindred comes after Angelakos revealed his struggles with mental health and bipolar disorder, and it’s very hard to separate the album from this. Angelakos’ struggles cast a long shadow over Kindred, not just lyrically—each track begs for deeper readings—but musically too. Musically, Kindred isn’t as emotionally engaging or focussed as past releases; the high production values are still there but the hooks aren’t as immediately revealing. Yet, even when the hooks do click, the production—while crisp and assured—can be overbearing. Case in point: “Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)” and “Ten Feet Tall (II)” pile on effects and keyboards—and in the case of the latter—that threatens to turn into a wall of digital noise.
Kindred’s best moments are itss roomier, more contemplative tracks. Taking a cue from the Gossamer stand-out “Constant Conversations,” “Where the Sky Hangs” has a cool, soulful ’80s Hall and Oates vibe and is likely the album’s highlight.
Kindred’s not necessarily a bad album, just one that’s not as thrilling as one might hope. Angelakos and company have reached Passion Pit’s plateau, finding the band in a holding pattern. There’s enough here to satisfy for the moment, but Kindred doesn’t have the cohesion or addictiveness characteristic of Passion Pit’s previous efforts.