Passion Pit’s debut, Manners, was a world-conquering sonic arsenal on the level of Coldplay’s Parachutes, rife with sing-along dance-pop ammo that peaked with the wonderfully dizzy anthem “Sleepyhead.” Yet despite Passion Pit mastermind Michael Angelakos’s songwriting often striking a careful balance between Top 40 appeal and indie experimentation, Manners was hardly calculating. If anything, there was a sense that the album’s synth-drenched exuberance was the result of the band’s self-fandom: Essentially, Passion Pit wrote and performed songs that they themselves wanted to hear.
The Cambridge crew’s follow-up, Gossamer, doesn’t quite boast the same energy level. Angelakos, in particular, has lost much of the fiery bearing that once fueled his vocals. The soprano-voiced frontman was desperate, ecstatic, and even crazed on Manners, an untameable human element that enlivened the more conventional sounds and rhythms of Passion Pit’s electronic pop. On Gossamer, however, Angelakos is resigned and lamenting— obsessed with alcoholism and broken romance—and his drop in enthusiasm inevitably results in Gossamer operating like a predictable machine. Tracks thus struggle to engage on any meaningful level: Apart from its bobbing beat, “Carried Away” is aimless and sterile, while “Mirrored Sea” attempts to convey anguish and yearning with its squealing synths and double-time beat, but winds up only running in place.
Elsewhere, Angelakos seems all too eager to replicate the aesthetics of “Sleepyhead.” In fact, much of Gossamer plays as though it were constructed (however poorly) from that song’s template—an assembly of altered vocal samples, crescendoing electro-pop beats, and bursts of pulsing keyboard melodies—with “Cry Like a Ghost,” “I’ll Be Alright,” and “It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy” being the most glaring offenders. The band, in effect, seems to be desperately chasing a winning blueprint. The only time they break away from their attempts at emulating the Manners formula is on “Constant Conversations,” a seductive missive of stomp-clap percussion that finds Angelakos in a short-lived, mesmeric groove. Apart from that brief moment, though, Gossamer is true to its name: colorless and precariously thin, with precious few bright spots.