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scene

Passion Pit reaches out

| Monday, March 6, 2017

Passion Pit_WEBLAUREN HEBIG | The Observer

On Friday, Michael Angelakos, better known as the band Passion Pit, released the ninth single in three weeks from his upcoming project “Tremendous Sea of Love.” If that sounds like a lot of singles, that’s probably because it is. His last album had 10 songs total. This incredible productivity isn’t simply the result of artistic fancy, Angelakos is drawing upon his extensive personal experience with mental illness.

Angelakos was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17. In 2012, several of Passion Pit’s tour dates were canceled while its frontman received more intensive treatment, including hospitalization, for the disorder. The group’s most recent album “Kindred” was heavily inspired by the criticism that Angelakos received during that absence. Both the press and the public accused him of playing up his struggles in order to get attention. The resulting sound was unusually intense.

“Tremendous Sea of Love” represents a step forward in Passion Pit’s therapeutic process. While “Kindred” was a means of catharsis, this latest work is a step towards healing and growth — one that isn’t just a personal tool for self-care. All nine singles were posted on the YouTube channel of The Wishart Group, a New York based enterprise launched by Angelakos to provide “legal, educational and healthcare support to musicians,” according to Rolling Stone. Although it’s unclear at this point just what form this assistance will take, the company has supposedly attracted $250 million in funding already.

It’s great to see an artist using his platform to not only address his own demons, but to reach out to help others. There has been a surfeit of artists calling off tours and/or speaking out about their own battles with mental illness recently, but awareness — while certainly valuable — can only go so far. $250 million, on the other hand, can pay for a lot of medication and therapy. It will be interesting to see if The Wishart Group can get resources to artists who really need it. At this early stage, it is only possible to say that this organization is a noble idea that will hopefully make a difference.

The album — or the nine singles anyway — is an extension of this mission. It still features the euphoric wall of synth that has come to characterize Passion Pit’s music, but the strength of those notes changes dramatically from song to song. In some, like “You Have the Right,” it merely supports Angelakos’ vocals. In others, like “Inner Dialogue,” it’s just the opposite. Throughout every song, however, is an inexplicable sensation of relief. The kind that you only recognize when you’re looking back on how far you’ve come; when you realize that the hole in the middle of your chest feels much smaller than it did the day before.

I have never considered myself in any way qualified to judge music. I am only qualified to tell you the incredibly limited, subjective perspective that is my opinion. With that in mind, “Tremendous Sea of Love” is an album that makes me feel good. Angelakos’ personal growth comes through clearly in each song, as does his desire to help people who are in the same position that he was in. It’s impossible to say which of Passion Pit’s projects will end up having a better impact upon those struggling with mental illness, the album or the organization. Only time is going to answer that one. All that I can say is: This album has helped me with my own depression, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s a success.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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