Updated: 12:41 AM, 03/17/17.
Passion Pit just released his tenth (yes, you read that correctly) single for his new album titled Tremendous Sea of Love. Let’s get caught up to speed.
Last year, Michael Angelakos – better known by Passion Pit, his musical moniker – teamed up with DJ duo Classixx to release the endearing “Safe Inside.” The single is brimming with bright synths and Angelakos’ vocals are reminiscent of the earlier Chunk of Change EP he officially released nine years ago.
That summer, he mentioned via Twitter that he was working on a remastered reissue of his groundbreaking debut Chunk of Change as it’s steadily nearing the eve of its ten year anniversary.
Last winter, he released an original soundtrack and accompanying visual album entitled “Merry Christmas, Mr. Fields” under his own name. It’s full of lots of strings and lush instrumentation and is pretty damn good.
Despite what you might expect from the album’s title, Angelakos tweeted some clarification concerning MCMF during the latter half of December:
“‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Fields’ is not about Christmas. It is an emotional plea at a time when fact is refuted, horror and hate normalized.” (18 Dec. 2016).
Mike is pretty transparent when it comes to his political leanings, but that’s never been the forefront of Passion Pit’s music.
On March 9, Passion Pit released his tenth (yes, you read that correctly) single for his new album titled Tremendous Sea of Love via Twitter Moments.
Let’s get caught up to speed, and see how this new material holds up.
On February 13, Angelakos announced the inception of The Wishart Group, an organization devoted to taking care of artists’ mental health (among other things). With that announcement, he dropped “Inner Dialogue,” a punchy and unique instrumental.
Since then, Mike’s released a flurry of tracks. He’s confirmed that a new album is on the way and that its name is derived from that Donald Trump interview with David Muir. Trump commented on his inaugural crowd size, stating: “The crowd was massive! I call this…a tremendous sea of love.”
This man is our president and Suicide Squad won an Oscar.
Mr. Angelakos knows that these are trying times, and he’s gifted us with a carefully crafted, brand new batch of tracks packed full with glimmering synths and soundscapes big enough to fill a stadium at its most glowing moments. At other times, Angelakos slows down the pace with more calm and mellow tracks that put his vocals front and center.
Make no mistake, this is Passion Pit at his best.
Below is a list of the new tracks, in chronological order of their drop date.
- Inner Dialogue – A punchy instrumental full of distorted, unrecognizable vocals. It’s experimental, and there’s touches of influence from Kanye and Bon Iver here.
- Somewhere Up There – Passion Pit’s most frenetic track to date. It’s emotionally kaleidoscopic and full of sparkling synths that skitter and spill into one another. “I’m only trying / to turn our head to reality / and it’s so defying” Angelakos croons. I wasn’t sure what this song was about exactly, so in a Reddit AMA, Revolution asked Passion Pit if he could share what “Somewhere Up There” meant to him. His unedited answer follows:
i wrote the music to, quite literally, walk in the city too. i have a few songs like this. my brain just craves certain kinds of songs, and i can’t always get them from other artists, which is a gift because, as you said, the unexpected is the best. but i’m particular so i literally just…started soundtracking my walks, i walked faster/became more punctual actually. it sounds insane but i swear, it kind of works. interesting exercise.
anyway so i had the first part of this song done for a little bit but it needed work.
it’s a panic attack in three movements. i listen to a lot of classical music, particularly opera, and i decided to just completely rip the rug out from underneath listeners and not be so obsessed with making songs make sense to people from a structural standpoint. in fact, i think my music was so obsessed with doing that, it eventually cancelled itself out. it became so predictable, people probably stopped listening, or just could assume almost correctly what would happen. that’s… really depressing, because that’s not how i think in general.
so then someone that i go to who’s a mentor to me, i record conversations with him because he says a lot and it’s not worth him writing it down, it’s part of the process. and one of those moments we talked through my childhood. and it became clear what was the main issue in a lot of my current problems / transitional situations.
so i sampled him. with his permission. that’s the bowlby theory portion, the part about three different attachments.
and then it became this piece that… explored a panic attack in three movements. that’s what my pain sounds like. that’s what my horror sounds like. it’s pretty, that’s what’s weird and creepy about it to me.
and then maybe the most honest thing about it is that it starts as a song about my divorce, about my insecurities in it, about blaming myself for everything after a lot of really bad communication, etc. And that’s the vocal portion at the beginning.
but it turned out i just wasn’t listening. i wasn’t listening to people, i wasn’t listening to music the right way, and classical music taught me that. classical music taught me to listen.
and if you listen, truly listen, you understand people, but you understand yourself.
and at the end, there wasn’t much more i needed to sing — that’s the irony in all of this. i don’t need to speak so much. i’m learning this still, this is a process. i need to listen.
like finally listening to a voicemail from my mother that i had ignored until that moment — and making that literally the finale of the song.
this is 100% real, and whether or not it makes sense to people at first doesn’t matter. it makes sense to me.
It’s manic, incredibly riveting stuff. On Kindred, Passion Pit played it safe with a clean and formulaic verse/chorus/verse/chorus song structure. This track signals a deviation from that standard, and a welcome one at that.
- I’m Perfect – “I’m Perfect” (perhaps a pun on being “imperfect”) is remarkably catchy. It marks a shift from the melancholy to an upbeat, radio-friendly track that’s sweet and endearing, but not overly so. The chorus reflects a seemingly constant state of insecurity for Passion Pit, as he sings “Tell me I’m so damn perfect / tell me it all of the time.” It follows in the footsteps of songs like “Whole Life Story” and “I’ll Be Alright.”
- Moonbeam – Passion Pit returns to including interludes and instrumentals after taking a break from them on the tight and focused Kindred. But interludes aren’t at all bad, as proved by “Two Veils To Hide My Face” on 2012’s Gossamer. It’s a beautiful soundbyte. Here, Michael paints a serene scene full of chirping birds, rising bass, and soaring vocals that aim to inspire.
- Hey K – A downtempo ballad written for Kristi, Michael’s former spouse and the focal point of Kindred and Gossamer. It’s a slower groove that feels more R&B inspired (think “Constant Conversations”). The end of the song features a swelling crescendo of cascading synths and wobbling basslines as he sings “Love is the answer / and the one design / such a simple design / holy architecture.”
- You Have the Right – On 2015’s Kindred, Passion Pit gifted us with “Where the Sky Hangs,” a track that has considerable breathing room when compared with his past tracks, which are usually packed full with layered instrumentation. On “You Have the Right,” Angelakos returns to this format with a glossy, optimistic track. It’s a meaningful track, don’t get me wrong – but it feels fragile and wispy thin due to its quiet, subtle soundscapes. It’s not a bad thing in the slightest – it’s brave. This is a stark contrast to the glittering crowded sounds of his first full-length LP Manners, where his vocals sort of hid behind the sounds. Michael is tired of hiding, and it shows on these more subdued tracks. The lack of instrumentation lends itself to a more personal song, and it sounds honest.
- The Undertow (demo version) – An open track full of blips and lush sounds that remind us of a happy, nostalgic nod to a certain video game soundtrack straight from our youth. In the background hangs some ambient noise – perhaps a gentle breeze on a busy street. In print, it sounds silly and pointless, but it works to great effect in the same tradition as “Hey Mami” by Sylvan Esso. Here, Michael layers his own vocals to create a trippy track as he sings “We know what we need / clear and immediately / a love concrete / spelling it out on the street.” It’s a call to action – a cry for listeners to snuff out the negativity and the senseless noise of the world with love and empathy.
- Tremendous Sea of Love – The self-titled “TSOL” track is an instrumental that could illustrate that senseless noise illustrated in “The Undertow.” It’s full of a cumulative clamor that builds before it becomes completely quiet. We’re not sure whether this is an opener or closer, or if this titular track will even make it onto the final track list.
- To the Otherside – Full of planky pianos and swirling synths, this track feels like an ethereal breeze. It’s a truly beautiful track, and I don’t want to spoil too much here. It’s at once empowering and chilling. Angelakos noted on Passion Pit’s Facebook page that “To the Otherside” is about his childhood trauma, which he has only now opened up about:
In 2009, I performed at the Brooklyn Vegan/Paste showcase at SXSW. I had been drinking heavily, I had been using drugs, and I was spiraling. More accurately, I was experiencing a mixed-episode, which is a dangerous combination of both manic and depressive symptoms. I am a strange person in general, so my behavior probably made sense to the world that was fostering my career: I was a young artist and I was having a moment. I didn’t really understand social media, I wasn’t even very good with Facebook, and I only had a basic, very generalized understanding that there were platforms and tools available. However, the interactions on these tools, as I saw them then, seemed problematic for me — the benefits of connecting with your audience were drowned out by the sea of inevitable voices of dissent. This is not to say that I only wanted to live in a feedback loop. This is to illustrate that I had very clearly never recovered from several traumas in my life, including sexual molestation and, more specific to my point here, bullying. Years of childhood bullying.
At the show in Austin, I remember how packed it was, and I was suprised. I knew Paste was a fan of my music, and it was a considerable honor to me. But Brooklyn Vegan had been reporting on me for years, and their website was, to me and many in the industry at this time, less about the reporting and more about the comments sections.
I didn’t really understand the point of the comments sections after awhile, at this particular juncture, because at this time it was nothing but the most vile, angry, hateful responses to what was, to me, an attempt in earnest to make really beautiful music. It was hard to understand it, it was easy to assume, and I really did think that people would begin to see that it was a character, that it stood for something internal, that it was quite literally the sound of my pain and self-hatred. I believed they would, at least with a few objective listens, begin to understand me.
This is not how it works, obviously. But when you’re being told by so many people that what you’re doing is good, is going to succeed, is going to connect, especially when it already very clearly has, you begin thinking maybe there’s something wrong with you, maybe there’s something you can change, maybe there’s more you can hide, maybe you can really fight to make people understand if they don’t.
This is also not how it works. Or maybe how it worked.
So in this tent, I had entered the lion’s den. It was the culmination of all of my childhood pain, but actualized on such an absurdly profound level, in that I was playing a show for a bunch of people I was absolutely certain did not like me, were not looking to be impressed but looking to watch me fail, and were, in fact, the comment section. They were my nightmare. And I was going to perform for them. Smiling.
And then I had, what I later learned, a literal breakdown. In front of the audience. That was not the art. But it was perceived as the art. It was perceived as insane, as melodramatic, as a cry for help. It was beyond a cry for help — that cry had been ignored, had been dismissed, had been mistaken for the antics of a “snowflake.”
And in this immensely defiant, beautiful way, I made it work. I ended up going to a hospital. My suicidality had reached such oversaturating, overwhleming shriek, and no one could understand it, so it was time to go away for a minute.
That was later diagnosed as disassociative psychosis.
That is what trauma renders, and that is, in effect, in many ways, what trauma is.
And most artists go through this every day. And most artists think this is the price. And most audiences believe the same thing.
But we are not snowflakes. I am a really strong person. It took me awhile to realize this, but I am.
And we are not catastrophes. We are the dramatization of all of our and your realities. This whole thing is both a calling and a choice. It’s the most confusing, wonderful thing in the world. It’s such an honor, and it’s a really the most unnecessary burden. It’s a moth to the flame, it’s the abused going back to the abuser. It is, above all, a horrifying, utterly euphoric type of beauty, constantly burnng holes through a mundane overcast.
It’s just a truth.
And sometimes, just for a moment, say ten years from the moment that you decide to put your music on myspace for no good reason, you realize that the trauma is not the authenticator.
You realize that just because you are an artist does not mean you have to suffer. The trauma is not the validation. The trauma is not the litmus test. Life is hard enough, and that’s why it’s so interesting to convey in any other way then the way we do by default.
So long as you make it to the other side in some way — any way — you win. What that looks like for each person, I dont really know. But it’s a feeling, and it’s when you realize that no matter what they said or say — the bullies of your childhood , the bullies in the comment sections, or the bullies that become president — just get to the other side.
That’s a truth that no one can really refute.
Most people won’t understand it. And you got into this whole thing to be understood, so that’s a bit confusing.
But that’s okay. You did it.
And that’s enough because you’re enough
Perhaps this explains the reasoning behind the political backstory of the album. The personal is political, and elevating a bully to the highest office in the land is enough to make people scratch their heads and second guess reality. It’s a track that tries to make sense of life’s most senseless moments.
- For Sondra (It Means the World to Me) – According to Angelakos, this track best sums up TSOL as a whole. It begins with a haunting piano intro, that leads into some off kilter synths that pierce through the track’s quiet nature before becoming calm. “But mother, you knew / your love kept on hurting me / but you’re my family.” Michael sings over a feathery, finger-picked guitar.
Despite its name, Tremendous Sea of Love doesn’t seem to be innately political. Instead, it’s a response to the current political climate and overwhelming uncertainty in general. Sea of Love is a ray of hope; an optimistic group of tracks that are both energetic and uplifting.
The lyrically esoteric Manners was frantic cry for help. 2012’s Gossamer was more personal and manic. Every painfully sad verse is accompanied with a bright beat.
But that’s always been the case.
It’s a crazy dichotomy that works. But by being sonically optimistic, maybe Passion Pit is urging us to think about the glimmers of good in this sometimes treacherous life.
David Hormell is a soft-spoken junior from Shelbyville. He loves corgis and college radio. He currently serves as the station manager and internet director at Rev. One day he’ll come to terms with his Taco Bell addiction, but that day is not today.