Michael Angelakos’s songwriting process for Passion Pit has always been to filter and reshape. Many sounds on Kindred that you’d assume are synths are actually his voice, minced on a computer, morphed by pedals. Michael samples Michael. It’s an ability to look at himself from a slight distance and tweak and adjust, which also extends to his character off record.
He aspires to “create worlds” with his music, and fittingly his studio resembles the Hadron Collider. There are buttons and switches and knobs on everything, his restless mind echoed in his workstation. He makes his weird ‘Hands Across America’ utopian bangers out of broken Casios and diaristic candor. (“If you’re going to be honest with your music, you might as well be brutally honest.”) The creation of “Five Foot Ten” entailed Michael pressing the same key on a cheap ‘90s synth while cycling through 160 different sounds, then running them all through his Russian space station-looking Eurorack modules. “Looks Like Rain” uses a sampled 808 kick drum as a chordal instrument. Everything is run through a filter and Passion Pit itself is but a larger filter. It’s Michael’s life run through the psyche of his inner 19 year old. The young and insecure part. The part that only ten years ago was nine. —Brent Katz
As a visual artist, Broken Arrow, Okla., native JD McPherson is well versed in the process of working within clearly defined formal parameters, and he employs a similarly rigorous discipline with his music. On Signs & Signifiers (Rounder, April 17), McPherson’s seductively kickass debut album, produced by JD’s musical partner, Jimmy Sutton, this renaissance man/hepcat seamlessly meshes the old and the new, the primal and the sophisticated, on a work that will satisfy traditional American rock ’n’ roll and R&B purists while also exhibiting McPherson’s rarefied gift for mixing and matching disparate stylistic shapes and textures.
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