Michael Angelakos, the man behind Passion Pit, is a man of many conflicts and contradictions. Passion Pit was initially conceived as a collaborative project, but has evolved since 2009’s debut album Manners to the point where Passion Pit is almost exclusively the product of the confused and troubled mind of their leader. Second album Gossamer is a record that wraps all of the heartfelt emotional confessions and contradictions that characterise Angelakos into a sweet yet some times sickly concoction of expansive electro pop.
Angelakos has spoken in interviews about his struggles with mental illness and there are a number of moments on Gossamer where the sheer emotional honesty is overpowering. Fortunately, Angelakos’s has a gift for coming up with impossibly euphoric and effervescent melodies and choruses that belie the darkness of the lyrical content.
Album highlight I’ll Be Alright is a perfect case in point. Opening with the question “Can you remember ever having any fun?” it is immediately clear that this is an album of crushing honesty and introspection. Angelakos seems to question everyone and everything.
There is though, hope at the heart of his introspection, a hope encapsulated in the super-sized sound that turns something dark into a celebratory anthem. The music is a crashing mass of drums, synths, and sonic effects. The maximalist approach used here is reminiscent of producers such as Rustie or Hudson Mohawke and this commitment to massiveness is a common theme of the album. Gossamer is an electro album intended for stadiums and for huge open spaces.
It is also a record firmly focused on the future. There is nothing retro or reductive here, it is constantly sonically challenging. However, the hyperactive frenzy sometimes becomes overwhelming. But when the music is slightly stripped back, as on lustrous slow jam Constant Conversations, the beauty of Angelakos songs flourishes.
At the heart of Gossamer is the conflict between joy and sadness, the music is wonderfully exuberant and vibrant, whereas the lyrics flip between pessimism, doubt and crippling angst with carefree abandon. The lovely swooning melody of It’s Not My Fault I’m Happy sees Angelakos perhaps finding peace, exclaiming: “I know that it’s only something, I’m just working with what I’ve been given, It’s not my fault, I’m happy, Don’t call me crazy, I’m happy!”
That happiness is thrown into stark contrast on closing track Where We Belong. It’s hard not to feel touched as he delivers the album’s final line “All I ever wanted was to make you proud”, the swelling string crescendo and dynamic structure marking it out as the most ambitious Passion Pit song yet. A fitting way to close an album that offers a significant step forward.
The making of Gossamer was a long and arduous process for its creator yet the emotional resonance of this strange yet hugely compelling album should hopefully go some way to helping him find peace and happiness. It is a modern pop record to be cherished.