Can you sing about love in indie music without being ironic or intensely self-aware? For that matter, what happens when you eschew irony in indie music altogether? Ours is a music group mired in cynicism -- dismissing the insincere (i.e. Billboard Top 40) and scoffing at the overly eager (i.e. emo music). It is not that we don't feel love, it's that we want our presentations of love unique, original, expressionistic, yet somehow subtle. We sing of these emotions, yet under carefully crafted disguises -- metaphors, analogies, stories, characters. But what happens when such criterion is ignored? What happens when an indie artist makes music without intending anyone else to hear it?
Welcome to the world of Michael Angelakos, the brainchild of Passion Pit. The entirety of the debut EP Chunk of Change was written for Angelakos' girlfriend as a Valentines Day present. The music is beautiful. But it can also be cloying. If the Monkees' "I'm A Believer" was a celebration of love, Chunk of Change is a street parade. "I know love's what I need to work at," he sings in the stunning opener "I've Got Your Number", but it's abundantly clear he's got it figured out. Using a laptop as his instrument of choice and sound manipulation techniques to finish the product, Chunk of Change is an excessively poppy and computer-generated record. This is a good thing; for it is not necessarily Angelakos' production that is his strength here (as Garage Band has allowed every Mac the chance to emulate Cut Copy), it is the structure of the song-writing and ability to craft hooks that supplement lyrics like "when I started losing hope/there you were/there you bloomed."
Like many debuts, this album is not without its fault. Most obviously, Angelakos' shrill falsetto strives to hit notes out of his range. Listening to the saccharinely-titled "Cuddle Fuddle", his voice wails aimlessly and succumbs to perfunctory lyrics like "sometimes we're high/ sometimes we're low." He outstretches his boundary in the quasi-anthemic "Better Things" -- handclaps, Atari-like noises, and group chants in full force culminate into neurosis. However, lost ground is redeemed in album finale "Sleepyhead" where warm fuzz and wailing (electro-) guitar solos bring us a grand finale.
The album's purpose will inevitably be its most alienating factor for many listeners. After all, what's there about a random dude from Cambridge, brandishing collared shirts, singing songs about his girlfriend, that carries any widespread appeal? It's the candid self-honesty and willingness to embrace and exploit the inebriation caused by falling in love. Besides, who hasn't wanted to write a song for your girlfriend/boyfriend at some point? Chunk of Change is a reactionary album -- one that laughs in the face of pessimists and realists and refuses reticence or caution -- Angelakos is in love, and he's going to revel in it.