Artist: Passion Pit
In our contemporary culture there is the tendency to overlap, to mashup and collage; exciting new art styles end up as clothing line prints, books turn into movies that turn into novelizations of movies, and the music we listen to frequently ends up on commercials. As a patron of the arts, a reader, a listener, and a consumer, it’s difficult to say what the intentions of creators are. Whether an artist attempts to make art or something commercial little matters, because inevitably we’ll end up able to consume it in both forms.
In the crux of this conundrum lies Passion Pit’s album Gossamer. It doesn’t matter if the artists were trying to create art or commercial art, but often throughout their latest offering there is the disturbing sensibility of listening to an extended commercial, being fed an offering that gives little sustenance and nourishes naught, while simultaneously there are attempts at lyrical depth and a seeming desire for sincere communication – and therein lies the dilemma.
It’s difficult to criticize a fence-sitter, because the art is likely to disappoint either way you interpret it. Unfortunately that’s precisely the problem of Gossamer. The music – an electronic, distortion-heavy alt-pop menagerie – is largely forgettable. Most of the melodies seem familiar, have regular rhythms to dance to, and yet glide effortlessly away from the listener without leaving anything behind to remember. While the subject matter of the album appears to be provoking and intriguing, ranging from working class doldrums (“Take A Walk”), over imbibing (“Cry Like A Ghost”), and the favorite bad love (“I’ll Be Alright”, “On My Way”, “Hideaway”, and the aptly titled “Love Is Greed”), the execution of the subjects is eternally bright, and often overlaid ad nauseam.
There are a few exceptions, moments of genuine fun that serve as points of clarity. “Carried Away” sparkles as a juicy trite bite, with its 80s girl pop feel and lyrics that describe the sliding nature of false friendships – a subject that in the age of social networking and increasing tendencies towards isolation seems more relevant and relatable than ever before. Breezily sung lyrics that state “Listen, I’m your friend, don’t quote me” come across as perky, sour and sweet. “Cry Like A Ghost” has the most distinguishing personality of the collection within the music itself; heavy, electronic synth distortions periodically give it a sort of haunted house pop feel, and inject the song with some genuine eerie fun, but when the chorus kicks in there is too much of a hollow contemporary pop emptiness infusing it. Promise turns to empty shadows, and the listener is left with disappointment.
Sometimes on Gossamer the things that you hear with the least clarity are the most interesting. “Where We Belong” features some unusual and complex violins and noises similar to the flitting of insect wings, and “Mirrored Sea” has a dreamy binge of psychedelia hidden within it. But like hunting for proof of Nessie or Bigfoot, these moments of inspiration that you took a smudgy photo of in your excitement vanish all too quickly, and you are left wondering if anything exciting actually happened at all.
While Passion Pit fans might be more forgiving of the album, or so eager to embrace a new entry since 2009’s Manners that they find gold here, this collection of songs has less a heart of gold than a heart of iron pyrite, if there is any heart to be found at all.