Passion Pit‘s Michael Angelakos is a fussy sonic craftsman: A Berklee-trained keyboardist and singer who started out working solo on his laptop, he now makes fizzily catchy electro-pop that orbits around monster hooks. He’s not, in other words, the first musician you’d associate with a stripped-down performance behind NPR Music’s Tiny Desk, where Technicolor production tends to give way to unfiltered voices and bare instrumental essentials. But Angelakos, a gifted songwriter who’s been publicly forthcoming and articulate about his battles with bipolar disorder and substance abuse, is no intellectual or musical lightweight.
Angelakos clearly saw an opportunity in bare-bones arrangements of his best-known songs — his 2008 breakthrough single “Sleepyhead” and two hits from this year’s Gossamer, “Take a Walk” and “Carried Away” — that he couldn’t explore with a full band. With only his own falsetto, an electric piano, and simple guitar lines from Passion Pit’s Ian Hultquist, Angelakos gets to direct listeners toward his words, which blossom under scrutiny. “Take a Walk,” for example, turns up in a zillion commercials thanks to that monster hook, but it’s also a rich, thoughtful sketch of an immigrant family’s experiences, expectations, dreams and disappointments. In this performance, the hooks do persist, but words rule the day.
- “Take A Walk”
- “Carried Away”
Producer: Bob Boilen; Editor: Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Christopher Parks; photo by Ryan Smith/NPR