Given the subject matter – alcoholism, mental illness, a relationship in turmoil – Passion Pit’s Gossamer (Columbia) could have easily shaped up as the year’s biggest pity party.
That it’s not owes to the inventiveness of do-everything songwriter-producer-keyboardist-singer Michael Angelakos. Instead, it’s a soul record disguised as buoyant, uptempo dance-pop. It shares characteristics with The Weeknd’s introspective take on R&B, the twisted nostalgia of a Kanye West jam (especially in the way the munchkin voices evoke West’s sped-up dusties-soul samples) and the stomping relentlessness of a Katy Perry single.
That sort of multi-layered something-for-everyone approach can be misleading. Listen to this music from a distance and it sounds like an aerobics soundtrack led by an androgynous cheerleader. Angelakos’ tenor frequently breaks into a Barry Gibb-worthy falsetto, surrounded by a cast of sweet-voiced angels, including the Swedish a cappella trio Erato. Listen more closely, however, and Gossamer turns into something else: the diary of a breakdown.
Keyboards and more keyboards, strings, voices and walloping drums saturate the senses and turn songs into mini-symphonies with shout-along choruses. The onetime bedroom artist now makes first-rate pop anthems, gleaming rocketships of sound that wouldn’t sound out of place on the radio next to Rihanna or Nicki Minaj. — Chicago Tribune