Chances are, when you hear the name “Passion Pit,” your brain jumps to “Take a Walk,” the indie pop single that took over the radio waves in 2012. With a buoyant synthesizer hook as well as simple, uplifting refrains mixed in with lyrics about pension funds and socialists, it was the perfect quirky hit to hum when going for a stroll. Passion Pit is not all catchy choruses and major key melodies, though—it never has been. From its earlier albums to 2015’s Kindred, the band (the electronic music project of Michael Angelakos) has paired intriguing, sometimes unsettling sounds with deeply personal lyrics. Tremendous Sea of Love, Passion Pit’s newest record, continues in that tradition. The album sees Angelakos balancing the uncertain and the hopeful, the quiet and the loud, the acoustic and the computerized in an especially alluring way.
Tremendous Sea of Love begins with “Moonbeam,” which only lasts one minute and 17 seconds. Intros like this one have a purpose—to make you feel like you’re not only listening to an album, but embarking on some kind of sweeping musical journey. This one accomplishes its goal. With a quick, cheery pace, soaring synths, and a few bird noises mixed in, it sounds like the title screen music for some exciting adventure video game. Then the track segues seamlessly into “Somewhere up There,” by no means a conventional song. It’s six minutes long and deliberately choppy-sounding—but stick with it, because it features some beautiful vocals and interesting samples. It’s not hard to imagine it serving as the score to some highly stylized sci-fi movie.
The next two songs are more traditionally structured, but far from mundane. “Hey K” is possibly the album’s most gorgeous moment, a ballad dripped in electronic glitter. Angelakos’s falsetto part during the chorus comes as the best kind of surprise, crackling with emotion that no amount of digital instrumentation could mask. Near the end of the track, hints of “Moonbeam” can be heard as Angelakos sings “Love is the answer,” somehow sounding far from contrived. “To the Other Side” is based around a looped piano part, but due to the sincerity of Angelakos’s vocals and the instrumental accents that embellish the track, it never loses its steady glow.
In the middle of the album comes the title track, an instrumental piece that bolsters the feeling that the album is a cohesive production rather than a collection of songs. Then it’s on to “I’m Perfect,” which picks up the pace again and has verses that sound vaguely like the “Hotline Bling” chorus in terms of melody. It’s a bit reminiscent of “Carried Away” from Gossamer—both songs are jaunty enough to provoke enthusiastic hopping at live shows, and both feature lyrics that don’t shy away from realism but end up putting a positive spin on things.
“I’m Perfect” has more of a club-ready vibe, however. Next, calling to mind high school DJs saying, “All right, we’re going to slow things down a little,” comes “You Have the Right,” a love song that fits well with the other tracks in the same way that Daft Punk’s “Something About Us” nestled among the samples and glitchy noises on Discovery.
“Inner Dialogue” is a return to the EDM world that trades vocals for a chaotic swirl of sounds. After it subsides, we’re deposited into the lush world of “Undertow,” another love song with a vibe that’s a throwback to the enchanting feeling captured at the beginning of the record. The song’s opening riff is enough to bring a smile to your face on its own; when Angelakos begins to sing to its tune, it’s eye-opening.
Last but certainly not least is “For Sondra (It Means the World to Me).” When it begins, all that can be heard is the somewhat static-y sound of a piano melody, painting pictures of old time romance. Then violins and digital effects arrive, taking a small, beautiful moment and turning it into a larger, more beautiful moment. The song’s final act consists of nothing but Angelakos’s vocals and faint guitar strumming—no dark undertones, just sweetness and simplicity. Could any of us have foretold that he would create something like this in the days of Manners and Gossamer? Probably not—but this deviation from the norm seems totally natural rather than forced. It’s not a shift to a completely different sound for Passion Pit—just an expansion of the sonic universe they’ve created for their listeners over the years.
This Tremendous Sea of Love is one you’ll want to dive into. There’s not a single filler song on the carefully crafted ten-track album, making it the best Passion Pit release to date. Listen to it from start to finish, no skipping, and let it make your August glimmer.