Despite manhood issues, Passion Pit prevails in the world of pop

I quote Pitchfork Magazine: “Passion Pit aren’t cool.” Michael Angelakos, the band’s front man: “I’m not even really that cool.” Let me clarify: Passion Pit is not cool. To the average listener (and, truthfully, even to hardcore fans as well), watching them live is just odd. They’re a bunch of nerds standing around banging on keyboards, with the shorter guy from “The Big Bang Theory” back there banging on drums as Sasquatch Man stares at the floor while singing like a girl. They don’t have much technical talent, and their music is sloppy and often disorienting. I love it. Because Passion Pit, no matter whether in the studio or on the stage, is the most musically brilliant, creative and sharp band to emerge from the fray in this decade. Angelakos, 22, is the extensively bearded, oddly handsome, pop-music genius behind the Boston synth-pop quintet, formed in 2007. After a few songs he made on his computer as a Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend ended up as local favorites at Emerson College, where he was attending for film studies, he and friend Ian Hultquist (keyboards, guitar) recruited three other members, and a whirlwind of buzz surrounded the new band. The unmastered Chunk of Change EP, which included the insane track “Sleepyhead,” blew up in indie circles everywhere. The band signed with major label Columbia, and ended up in a studio in New York, as Angelakos puts it, “sitting there, drained and out of our minds, and eating McDonald’s every day and drinking beer” trying to record their full-length debut, Manners, which finally was released in May. Meteoric rise? You could say so. But the burnout was worth it. Manners is laced with inventive synths, catchy melodies, and an incredible attention to detail—as if Arcade Fire went electronica. Lush, brash, and beautiful, it would easily be ranked my top album of 2009 had Muse not released The Resistance (and therefore automatically claimed the prize). The lyrics are devastatingly poetic, a peculiar contrast to the bright sound of the band, and Angelakos delivers them in a completely unique falsetto, something you really have to hear to understand. Arguably the best track on the album is “Little Secrets,” a raving jam with the best synth line I’ve heard in years and a children’s choir rocking out in the chorus. “Folds In Your Hands,” an obviously French-inspired electronica track, and “To Kingdom Come,” a poised, mid-tempo song with brass and clean guitars swirling around, are other standouts, although simply no track disappoints on the album. Passion Pit, however, is more than just music. Their aforementioned signing with Columbia turned heads—usually an indie band doesn’t “sell out” until later in their career. But Angelakos, in an interview with the Boston Phoenix, gives a completely new philosophy towards the music industry for a synth-pop band like his: simply not caring about being “indie” or “underground,” and just making music for the sake of music. “The whole Indie Break thing is so ridiculously stupid,” he said. “It’s not about the music being good, it’s about having a catchy single and being cool. Half the guest list we have, they don’t…care about seeing us, they just want to be there and say they went and saw us… [But] now we see all these frat dudes in the audience, jumping up and down. It’s the most homoerotic thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and it feels so amazing that like, finally, people care… I’m now more interested in the world of pop because it’s not so self-conscious in that way.” Music not created for the purpose of aesthetic or fashion, not to be cool, but to enjoy, to dance to, and to sing along with without worrying about image? That’s what makes Passion Pit truly unique.