There's a fine line between cheesy and danceable synth sounds, the former adjective accomplished in spades during the eighties, yet somehow acceptable. In the current musical landscape, Cambridge band Passion Pit is something of a stand alone novelty in their euphonious bravado.
The story of Passion Pit's formation and rise to critical acclaim is somewhat unconventional in that no one in the band had any grand plans for fame, it just sort of happened. Michael Angelakos, Passion Pit's frontman, began writing songs under the aforementioned moniker as a present to his girlfriend for Valentine's Day (try to put yourself in the mindset of watching a romantic comedy in order to buy into this). At the time, Angelakos was attending a college-prep school in Buffalo, New York with his brother Matt Angelakos, who also had a band, rather tritely called Matt's Band. Upon hearing the EP Michael had cobbled together, Matt and several other friends encouraged Angelakos' endeavors and the tracks began to spread throughout the school with a surprisingly positive response.
From there, the other chips began to fall into place, those chips being Ian Hultquist on keyboards and guitar, Ayad Al Adhamy on synths, Jeff Apruzesse on bass, and Nate Donmoyer on drums. In print, it's a very multicultural lot, with a sound to match. And so with all members in place, their jubilant first album, Manners, was created and released in May of 2009, built by the support of the Chunk of Change EP, which came out in the fall of 2008.
The overwhelming reception to Passion Pit is not without its reasons. There are songs on this album that practically burst out of the speakers. "Little Secrets" is one track in particular that could quite possibly make a corpse (even apart from Bernie) get up on the dance floor. Some people, like cokemachineglow's Calum Marsh, feel "the band had every intention to make this record every bit as sweet as it is, but their tolerance (and, one would imagine, the tolerance of their fans) for the overly saccharine must be exponentially higher than my own. It’s just too damn much." Ah, but that's the thing about music that is heavily bathed in synths, isn't it? Rarely are there dark undertones in such a genre. Unless you're Soft Cell, that may be the exception to the rule.
So, aside from being deemed too superfluous, there is not much fault in Passion Pit's debut. And really, being superfluous is not such an awful criticism at this point in time. If anything, the world could use more gratuitousness during an epoch when it is being told there isn't enough (enough money, enough discipline, take your pick of a noun). Passion Pit is really the first new band in a long while (mainly since the beginning of the dreaded recession) to contradict the ban on fun in a meaningful way.