If MGMT was last year's not-that-indie-rock crossover sensation, this year Passion Pit takes the title.
In little more than a year, Michael Angelakos' bedroom synth-pop project has ballooned into one of the most popular up-and-coming bands, with hits like "Sleepyhead" and "Little Secrets" booming from festival stages and soundtracking hipster house parties nationwide.
They've done it by applying Coldplay-worthy arena-rock instincts to Ratatat-style dance grooves and by stretching Angelakos' falsetto to its breaking point. Dude is a wheezing alt-pop Mariah Carey, reaching into octaves rarely traversed by mortal men and in the process providing the litmus test for Passion Pit fandom.
In honor of Angelakos' polarizing pipes, here's a tribute to some of rock's most piercing falsettos.
Geddy Lee, Rush
"What about the voice of Geddy Lee?" Pavement's Stephen Malkmus once wondered. "How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy." Thanks to Malkmus' fact-checkin' cuz, we can be assured that Lee does, in fact, talk like a regular person. But when leading the biggest band in all of prog, Lee cuts loose with notes as high as the constellations.
Justin Hawkins, The Darkness
That overtly masculine bastion of heavy metal has a long history of hair-raising shrieks from its lead singers. It just so happens that the band who took the piss out of that tradition ended up contributing some of its most enjoyable anthems. Hawkins jolts upward like so much pyrotechnics on faux classics like "Get Your Hands Off of My Woman" and "I Believe in a Thing Called Love."
The Beach Boys
Perhaps the most tasteful use of the high register comes from the brothers Wilson, whose longing beachside balladry captivated millions before spawning a million crappy imitations. Lots of bands now dabble in "Beach Boys-style harmonies," but rarely do Wilson disciples dare tackle those upper octaves with the same frequency and ferocity.
Buckley handled his high-register wail like a virtuoso, often flexing his vocal skills to the point of masturbation but also delivering some of rock's most tear-jerking moments. "Mojo Pin" good, "Corpus Christi Carol" not so much. Now please stop repackaging them into an endless stream of posthumous releases, OK?
Thom Yorke, Radiohead
Often accused of lapsing into a whiny whimper, and sometimes accurately so, Yorke's angst-ridden squeal has become one of the defining voices in the modern rock landscape. It's perhaps most potent when Yorke leaves behind words altogether and grasps at sorrowful syllables, as on the sighing conclusion of "How to Disappear Completely."
Matthew Bellamy, Muse
If Buckley begat Yorke, they both begat Bellamy, whose hyperactive falsetto surely must be some kind of ironic wink and nod along the lines of Justin Hawkins. The joke's on you, Muse fans!