Passion Pit’s first EP, a flawed yet charming little electronica ditty, seems too personal and inside-joke laden to get a fair critical take. Chunk of Change was Michael Angelakos’ belated Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend, but it was made public by Frenchkiss, the dudes who brought us Les Savy Fav and the Hold Steady. Chunk of Change almost certainly works better as a mixtape for Angelakos’ sweetheart than for a larger audience, but there’s still plenty of intrigue and promise to be found mixed in among the more-than-occasional annoyance.
Some see Chunk of Change closer/first single “Sleepyhead” as the standout, but that track doesn't do it for me. "Sleepyhead" simply seems like a late-'90s pop-hip-hop song minus the rap. The song that most grabbed my attention was opener “I’ve Got Your Number,” maybe the first one I’ve ever heard that I’d willingly describe as “electro-twee” and certainly the first one close to that style that I liked. It's the only time on the album that Passion Pit was able to draw some genuine pathos that extended beyond in-joke material. The other promising tracks are either bogged down by vague self-righteousness (the funky “Cuddle Fuddle”) or have all their power destroyed by poaching (the chorus of “Smile Upon Me” was stolen directly from “All My Friends”).
Despite Chunk of Change's flaws, Angelakos shows real promise as an innovative electronic-song weaver. Promise is, of course, what EPs are supposed to show, not immediate brilliance. Even still, Passion Pit’s style feels dated by a few years. Angelakos certainly has the tools to carve his niche, but he may have to whittle his niche a little differently in the longer term.
Passion Pit is centered by Boston-based singer-songwriter Michael Angelakos. He originally wrote this EP as a belated Valentine's Day present for his girlfriend. She must have liked what she heard (although it's not too romantic that Passion Pit is also the name of a Traci Lords/John Holmes skin flick from the '80s), because Angelakos started making more copies of the EP and handing them out to friends and acquaintances. Eventually so many people liked what they heard that Passion Pit (which Angelakos fleshes out to a full band when Passion Pit plays live) was voted Best New Local Act in a 2008 WFNX/Boston Phoenix Best Music Poll. The original version of Chunk of Change is augmented here by two additional tracks, "Sleepyhead" and "Better Things."