WASHINGTON, October 31, 2012 —Classifying Passion Pit’s music can lead one down any number of paths ranging from electro-pop, indie-pop, and synthpop dance, among several others. Obviously the recurring theme in all of those genre designations is the “pop” suffix. When someone describes the general idea behind a pop band, the kind of band they usually end up describing—often unintentionally—is Passion Pit. For better or for worse, Passion Pit is the personification of pop music.
There are two things you notice instantly about Passion Pit when they begin their set at the 9:30 Club on the second night a three show performance. The first: their total love affair with synthesizers and how that translates to their pop sound. This contributes the most pervasive part of their sonic assault, and for the most part overwhelms any other ideas they might foster with their brand of sound. It also essentially informs their musical ideology.
The live show of this Cambridge, Massachusetts band is about the closest thing people can hear these days when it comes to a celebration of pure pop aesthetics. This isn’t really a new or unique concept, as plenty of bands incorporate a total pop feel, or rather what people identify as “pop,” into their general sound. What sets Passion Pit apart from almost any other band is just how much they embrace the notion in its totality.
Bands will craft similar songs to the ones included in Passion Pit’s set. But these songs will never make up the entirety of their respective sets the way they do in Passion Pit’s music menu. Most bands shy away from and at times almost seem embarrassed to work pure pop like this into their discography because they fear their aura will lack credibility or bring a manufactured feel to this kind of unadulterated pop sound. In short, very few bands are entirely unapologetic about pop repertoire as Passion Pit is.
The reason for that is that Passion Pit’s music is entirely populist in nature. There’s a belief that if a band crafts music, intentionally or otherwise, that appeals to the widest range of people, especially those of fickle “pop” fans, then they might as well not be creating music for anyone. The major difference here is that Passion Pit creates this kind of music so effortlessly and without guile. The result is a musical output that’s unequivocally fun and infectious, with tunes that are almost impossible to avoid dancing to.
This leads us to the second most noticeable thing about Passion Pit: Michael Angelakos’ ridiculously high-pitched voice. In fact, Angelakos’ distinctive vocal output lends an unreal quality to the band’s performance, something that attracts instantaneous audience attention whenever Passion Pit appears live. Angelakos’ vocals never seem as if they’d be able to carry in a live setting, since they have an overproduced feel to them. Yet there he is, standing on stage, projecting the essence and tune of each song impeccably.
For all intents and purposes, Passion Pit is Angelakos’ project, as it essentially begins and ends with him. It’s impossible to imagine him playing any other type of music than the kind he presents with this band. The aesthetics, sound, vocals, and ideology fit together perfectly into one choreographed pop package.
Although there’s something surreal about seeing Passion Pit live, one can’t avoid the thought that, at times, the band feels a little too tightly put together. Every song during their set is so well orchestrated it’s as if the band has used a checklist to tick off what makes a great pop song. This may be more perception than anything, however. Where other bands might pull back and bury the instinct, Angelakos and Passion Pit let their pop DNA emerge front and center, flowing in a way that’s seemingly unencumbered by any conservative notions.
However long Passion Pit sticks around, it’s this sort of pure pop sound that fans can expect. The band has surgically removed anything extraneous, choosing to pursue their pure pop sound unencumbered. We think the audience will always be better for this.
Authenticity doesn’t really matter with Passion Pit. Their entire mission statement is to create a sound that people can easily move to. They’ll always have legitimacy as long as the crowds that attend their shows keep on dancing.