Passion Pit’s first single, “Sleepyhead,” was a dense, woozy, eminently danceable track that earned every comparison it got to Hot Chip and MGMT. “Sleepyhead” reappears on the band’s debut album, Manners, but it’s stuck at the end, which unfortunately means enduring a lot of mediocrity to get there. So what went wrong? One theory: Manners attempts to synthesize Michael Angelakos’ natural talent for dance music with more straightforward, heart-on-sleeve rock, but can’t quite commit to either. The best songs draw inspiration from “Sleepyhead,” like the baroque disco of “Folds In Your Hands,” but many more suggest ham-fisted attempts at orchestral pop-punk, as if culled from The Format’s rejects, or perhaps All American Rejects’ rejects. Which means Manners’ most interesting songs—like “Little Secrets,” which somehow melds a children’s choir, a Cyndi Lauper beat, and a dizzying array of synthesizers—get crammed between the likes of “Moth’s Wings” and “Seaweed Song,” bits of treacle made worse by the promise of what could have been.
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