To all those who have been patiently waiting since 2009, Passion Pit’s “Manners” was a faulty compass. The album promised youthful, hedonistic abandon, but “Gossamer” instead addresses fear, anxiety and drug abuse, even enlisting the help of a minor chord or two. The band’s sophomore effort still evokes streamers and confetti, but now it’s the morning after, and your head is pounding. Brimming with pointed self-awareness, “Gossamer” is the perfect album to both dance to and sulk to.
This looking-glass approach leads to some formidable successes near the beginning of the record. “I’ll Be Alright” is Gossamer’s first stick of dynamite, bursting with energy and a wide-sweeping assortment of musical textures. Between tinkling bells and sugary female backup vocals, “Carried Away” embodies the dreamy power pop Passion Pit is known for. “Let’s just keep pretending to be friends,” lead man Michael Angelakos suggests over the ‘80s synth line, but he says this in a playful manner rather than a mean one.
“Constant Conversations” stands out as the album’s most accomplished and complex piece. On “Conversations,” Angelakos is unlikable and selfish, yet spectacularly real. The R&B chords and warm bass line capture the intimacy of a late-night-lovers’ spat so well that listening almost feels intrusive, but the song is so catchy you can almost hear the festival audiences barging in at the chorus.
For the most part, “Gossamer’s” introspective endeavor is thoughtful and well executed–“Cry Like a Ghost” revisits the topic of addiction, while “Love Is Greed” and “It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy” are heartbreaking but sweet-sounding songs, their titles belying the lyrical intricacy within.
However, Passion Pit’s music walks the line between exuberance and caricature, and when “Gossamer” teeters off it falls straight into self-mockery. “Mirrored Sea” attempts to compensate for its blandness with volume and urgency; the chorus is doubled by the keys but still remains forgettable. “On My Way” suffers a similar fate, its grandiose instrumentation reminiscent of a Showtime Christmas movie. Although even the weakest tracks contain darling details, such as the 8-bit progression on “Mirrored Sea,” the songs remain too campy for comfort.
The album closes with the delicate “Where We Belong,” peeling away some of the musical wrapping to reveal a deeply private story of a suicide attempt. The bubbly synth fades out before the verse, presenting an “xx”-style minimalism unexpected from a band known for exaggeration.
A simple, quiet rebirth is just the way for Passion Pit to end “Gossamer” and embark on their next musical journey. With such a brutally honest second album under its belt, Passion Pit deserves to pat itself on the back, pack up its synthesizers and move forward, keeping us guessing for another three years.