New Music Wednesday

passionpitPoison Pit -“Manners”
After the success of its 2008 EP “Chunk of Change,” New England-based electro-pop group Passion Pit banked on its blogosphere buzz to quickly put together its first full-length album.

The result, titled “Manners,” builds upon the unique musical qualities lead singer Michael Angelakos infused into the “Change” EP he initially recorded as a gift to his girlfriend. “Manners” overflows with glittery synth-lines and sequenced percussion reminiscent of the cocaine-driven dance-funk of the 1980s.
While Passion Pit’s addictingly upbeat instrumentation lends distinction to “Manners,” which many modern pop groups are unable to achieve, the songs are tainted by Angelakos’ ear-splitting vocals — which rest somewhere between a drunken karaoke falsetto and the screeches emitted by alley cats in heat.

While on “Change” Angelakos found a happy medium between subdued singing and full-on wailing, he seems to have forgotten the old saying ‘less is more’ on the band’s newest endeavor, as his whines render nearly all songs on “Manners” practically unlistenable. To make matters worse, on a handful of tracks, including “Little Secrets” and “The Reeling,” Angelakos’ vocals are often doubled against one another — there’s no escaping his bone-shattering cries.

Mentally removing Angelakos’ voice from the album reveals a collection of ingenious pop instrumentals; Passion Pit might hold the key to the new era of electronica, if only it found a new lead singer. However, since the band is of Angelakos’ own design, perhaps it would be wise for him to invest in some singing lessons.



The Vaselines – “Enter the Vaselines”

More famous for being the favorite band of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain than for its short-lived musical escapades, Scottish male/female duo The Vaselines expected to fade into obscurity in their years after its 1990 breakup. However, to the surprise of many fans, the band devised a full-fledged reunion tour earlier this year after appearing at several one-off performances in 2008.

To celebrate the band’s reentry into the pop scene, The Vaseline’s old label — famed indie heavy-hitters Sub Pop—released a re-mastered and repackaged version of the 1992 compilation “The Way of the Vaselines,” now titled “Enter the Vaselines.”  Encompassing each of the band’s releases — including its sole LP, “Dum-Dum” — “Enter the Vaselines” creates a fitting retrospective for the band that paved the way for famous Scottish pop acts such as Belle and Sebastian.

While a majority of The Vaselines’ songs touch upon unsavory subjects ranging from incompetent lovers (“You Think You’re a Man”) to kinky sex (“Rory Rides Me Raw”), the band juxtaposes these unlikely topics with a unique brand of upbeat, jangly pop; Frances McKee’s soft and flighty vocals provide the perfect vehicle for delivering lines such as I’m a real bitch / I’m a twisted witch (“Bitch”) and Eugene Kelly’s teenage-esque wail adds double-doses of energy to the band’s extremely upbeat numbers.

As it functions as a complete retrospective, “Enter the Vaselines” adds previously unreleased demos and live tracks into the two-disc collection; while most of these bonus tracks are of low quality and not as captivating as the band’s proper catalogue, fans of the band will delight in discovering how McKee and Kelly developed their musical ideas over such a short, yet influential, career.


greendayGreen Day – “21st Century Breakdown”

Nearly 22 years after their formation, it seems rather unbelievable that iconic Bay Area punks Green Day still manage to tour and record amidst the struggles brought on by middle age. However, the members of Green Day have ventured back into the music world, delivering their follow up to 2004’s “American Idiot,” titled “21st Century Breakdown.”

Much like “American Idiot,” “21st Century Breakdown” is a punk-rock opera following two young lovers through the hardships of living in the post-millennial age. After the success of “American Idiot,” it is hard to accept “21st Century Breakdown” as a self-sustaining idea; it seems Green Day has discovered a formula for surefire success with the rock opera revival, and plans to draw out the trend as long as humanly possible.

Green Day delivers nothing new with “21st Century Breakdown,” as the quasi-political messages contained within the lyrics seem stale and clichéd in a post-Bush administration world and the instrumentation reveals no artistic growth, supporting claims that the band has lived inside a musical stalemate since 2000’s “The Warning.” Billy Joe Armstrong’s barking vocals on “Know Your Enemy” recalls “Minority” off “The Warning,” while more subdued numbers such as “Before the Lobotomy” parallel the band’s hit “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”

Yet for what Green Day does, they do quite well. While the band’s initial fan base may have grown up and ventured away from the world of pop-punk, “21st Century Breakdown” will undoubtedly shepherd new legions of Hot Topic-loving middle schoolers into the Green Day lexicon—and if a sub-par album leads a 12 year-old to download Green Day’s classic 1994 album “Dookie,” who are we to complain?