Two years after his last project, 2015’s Kindred, Michael Angelakos returns with a new album / EP / project / something under the Passion Pit name. Tremendous Sea of Love keeps with the synthy indie pop tradition of the band, but this time around with a more lo-fi and washed out feel. Whether these eight new songs are demos, unreleased tracks, or an entirely new set of fresh releases, they’re far from throwaways.
On Tremendous Sea of Love, Angelakos’ stylistic choices are far less cohesive and far more scattered – but it works well, livening up their sound, especially in contrast to 2015’s uninteresting Kindred. Passion Pit open with Moonbeam, a sparkly ambient pop instrumental that simply floods listeners with light and joy. It’s upbeat and beautiful – a sound carried into the next track Somewhere Up There, a lengthy seven minute song that spans a myriad of ideas. Angelakos builds soundscapes with lush electronics and eclectic, bouncy percussion, but slows this track right down near the end as he ventures into ambient music once more.
Even in areas that seem to suffer from a lack of ideas – particularly the first half of Hey K – Passion Pit manage to add that something more, that something transforms what would be uninteresting pop ballads into surprisingly listenable tracks. Angelakos is indebted to indietronica: that’s what livens up Passion Pit’s sound, but also dates it too. Still, Tremendous Sea of Love is put together in a way so that it straddles the line between pop’s mainstream and alternative angles. It’s nowhere close to the heights of Passion Pit’s classic Manners, but it’s a step above your average indie pop as well.
Inner Dialogue showcases Passion Pit’s experimental side – in a two minute instrumental, Angelakos builds a sound based in a vocal sample groove and glitch poppy stylings. Little experiments like this are where Tremendous Sea of Love shines, and these are the moments that Passion Pit should be building on if they want to produce more innovative music. This project needs less boring, predictable tracks like I’m Perfect, and more stuff like Somewhere Up There.
Tremendous Sea of Love is still full of salvageable moments when you cut those uninteresting moments out – the seemingly chillwave influenced The Undertow glows, with its lively poptimism and heavy resonant bass groove, while the closer You Have the Right is a soulful ballad that rounds out the album. This mysterious eighth track, TSOL (maybe part of the Tremendous Sea of Love project or maybe some sort of addendum or teaser), could possibly be the strongest of Angelakos’ new releases and one of his most interesting songs yet. Building on the ideas in Moonbeam, it’s a splendid four minute long ambient composition that sounds nothing like the Passion Pit anybody knows – but it’s amazing and beautifully tranquil, a sort of washed out and wavey summation of Tremendous Sea of Love.
It’s great to see new music from Passion Pit, especially considering the long wait since their last project, and it’s nice that this project is as refreshing as it is. It’s not groundbreaking and it’s no Manners, but it’s nice dose of lively indie pop that Angelakos is known for.