“I’ll be alright,” Passion Pit mastermind Michael Angelakos wails on the second song of their new album Gossamer, the appropriately titled “I’ll Be Alright.” The way he sings it makes you really, really want to believe it. It’s this ability to make the abjectly depressing sound whimsical, inspirational even, that is Passion Pit’s main asset and one of the things that makes Gossamer one of the most dynamic and interesting, and downright manic pop albums in recent memory.
Given the context of Angelakos’ life over the past couple of years, it’s a wonder he’s making music at all. A college dropout whose at-home, on-a-whim demo caught hot fire on MySpace and ended up leading to a record deal and swift adulation, Angelakos’ early work smacked of a certain forward-thinking nature. The first Passion Pit album Manners came across more or less as a pop-punk album stripped of its guitars with a thousand samplers thrown in. That record was inconsistent, but contained the unimpeachable “Little Secrets” and “Sleepy Head,” two hypercaffeinated anthems whose full-bodied mania hinted at the depths Gossamer would contain. In between Manners and Gossamer, Angelakos moved to Brooklyn and it came out that he was both addicted to alcohol and deeply bipolar, to the point where his ability to tour and record music might have been jeopardized -- six dates of Passion Pit’s massive tour in support of Gossamer were canceled, Angelakos citing mental-health issues on his part.
These issues lend Gossamer a sense of urgency, every heart-swelling major-key surge seeming to come with an ugly dark counterpoint. “I get carried away,” Angelakos sings, as frequencies from across the map bombard you for the third song in a row. Indeed, this is an album seemingly meant to be listened to while driving a hundred miles per hour through a rainbow, until the lyrics, mostly dealing with suicide, being bipolar, alcoholism and general desperation kick in, and suddenly the wide-screen sunniness becomes a red herring for the darkness. There is one moment where Angelakos keeps it simple. It’s “Constant Conversations,” a blue-eyed soul tune that serves as the comedown from the dizzying high of the songs that preceded it. It’s here that Angelakos is facing his demons, not trying to outrun them with a sampler and a plastered-on smile.