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CD review

Soulful heart, big beats, and lots of energy

By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / May 19, 2009
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Refreshed and uplifted. Those are two things that the best pop records leave you feeling, and that's definitely the end result of listening to "Manners," the debut album from Passion Pit.

Ecstatic is the key word here as melodies arrive in a sugar rush; lyrics spill out in long, ornate lines full of bright imagery; and Michael Angelakos's rough-hewn falsetto vocals practically burst at the seams as he attempts to get all his points across at once.

A major factor in the album's success is the group's exuberant, boundary-blind approach. While synth-pop is the overriding genre here, the whizzering keys and dance beats of songs like "Moth's Wings" and "Let Your Love Grow Tall" coexist peacefully with acoustic guitars and classic pop harmonies from the Beatles/Beach Boys playbook. Beats loop and stutter in a contemporary chop-and-screw stew, but no matter how mechanized a groove may be - on the melancholic "Swimming in the Flood," for instance - a soulful human heart beats through.

On an album marked by enthusiasm, Passion Pit does occasionally overdo things a wee bit. The kids chiming in on the Prince-ly "Little Secrets" is cute, but elsewhere the affinity for the group backing vocals flirt with "Up With People" glee. And occasionally Angelakos lets his pen get into a precious lyrical tangle - his world is "astir and sickly" at one point.

But when you've got as much melodic momentum and energy as Passion Pit does, you can see how easy it would be to get carried away in the sound.