Like Taylor Swift, Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos found inspiration for his new album from the '80s and his own personal life.
Passion Pit's "Kindred" (Columbia) shares plenty with Tay's "1989" -- the catchy pop melodies, the slightly off-kilter dance grooves, the tendency to reveal an awful lot of personal stuff.
Musically, the first single "Lifted Up (1985)" is a fizzy stomp, like something uncovered from Pet Shop Boys' house music period. But lyrically, it's true Angelakos, detailing struggles and resolve. "Yeah, I'm so tired," he sings in his airy, angelic voice. "I fight so hard and come back beaten."
With help from pal Benny Blanco, the songwriter-producer who has worked on Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" and Kesha's "Tik Tok," Angelakos' songwriting is more streamlined and pop-oriented than ever, a wild turn from the bipolar issues he was publicly working out on "Gossamer."
"Five Foot Ten (I)" disguises a demand for alone-time in giddy dance pop, piling it all on top of New Order-styled synths. Angelakos couldn't sound sweeter, even as he seems embroiled in a fight, repeating "I wanna be alone" like a chant. His stacked vocals and falsetto makes "All I Want" sound like an '80s pop lament on steroids, an innocent but intense wander through the mid-decade catalog of Scritti Politti.
There are moments of gorgeous sadness in "Dancing on the Graves," where his vulnerable falsetto and worried lyrics play off the sweet melody, and "Looks Like Rain," which would have fit nicely on pop radio in 1986 next to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's "If You Leave."
"Kindred" is Angelakos' most focused album, slightly more than half an hour of stylish, but still raw, dance pop. Its impact, though, is in how it shows how the world has grown so much smaller in the decades since these pop ideas were born and how much harder it is to hang on to hope and innocence. Somehow, Angelakos manages it.
THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Combining '80s innocence and new-millennium social media oversharing