Passion Pit’s latest LP has some euphoric musical touches, but it’s lyrically dismal — it’s like getting smothered in laughing gas before your teeth are yanked out. Frontman Michael Angelakos takes a fairly minimalist approach to writing lyrics, catalyzing them with unbridled emotion rather than clever rhetoric. But you don’t need to have rhetorical versatility of Shakespeare to write from the heart. Check out the top 10 lyrics to the album, courtesy of Stereo IQ editor Gavin Matthews.
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“You’re not strong so you/ You can hurt so badly”
Sometimes strength and pain have little to do with each other and the subtle, less direct blows do more harm. Rather than relying on strong attacks and heavy words, the girl in “Hideaway” relies on gossip, clever remarks, and biting metaphor to sting harder than thought possible. Perhaps angry at her mother at home, the girl is left to say things that she does not mean, insulting far worse than her intent. The thorn-like words hit home, reducing respect and the figuratively grand people in life to targets, easily struck down but in sinister, cowardly ways. Passion Pit is well aware that even the tiniest detail can kill, the metaphorical tiny shot to bring down the Death Star.
“Good men are always scarce and few/ But always passing through”
There is a double-edged sword to seeking the best of people, one that is sad and common. Everyone, is aware of the rumored archetypical “good man,” a person balanced, virtuous, noble, and brave, callous but kind, intelligent but strong. The hero in novels and the superhero in comics, the man is flawed but honest, creating an ideal that cannot actually be.
A look into the soul, “Mirrored Sea” realizes that, despite the desires of the heart to be the mythical man, the actual idea is temporary, passing like the nightly cycles of a bar. In our world, these men actually do not exist, their characteristics a fleeting glimmer among a crowd, disappearing as soon as the search begins. The men exist in part due to our own desires, but the real world presents everyone dynamically, always making many, and thus no real good men. The result is a sobering look at the soul, one which is flawed by nature, just like everyone else.
“There’s a very obvious difference/And it’s that one of us can think/If there is a bump in the road yeah you’d fix it/But for me I’ll just go on off the road”
“Constant Conversation” is the strange discussion of a man obsessed and his confused lover, trapped in an unwelcome relationship by habit. Although the man fully knows that his girlfriend will leave at some point, he believes that the comfort and ritual will keep her around for the time being. Acting slightly mad, the drunk man is ranting about his feelings, making little sense and clearly losing his touch on reality. Here, he expands on their differences, phrasing his insanity as simple misdirection, a habit to veer off-course rather than stop to get directions. He cannot think rationally nor of a time after their relationship, but she is always years ahead, patching the “road” of what was a troubled present.
“Don’t wanna love, don’t wanna hurt/ If all that loneliness requires is just another’s comfort’”
The reality of love is often pain, with the possibility of heartbreak and loss amplifying through the soul and dark thoughts persisting for years. The singer has power in love and knows that he can, with even simple actions, cause immense harm to his lover. Avoiding this, Passion Pit first labels love as a thing of the greedy, to be possessed rather than shared and ultimately egotistical. When love is rejected, their truth is revealed: loneliness, like lust, is too often mistaken for love, so much so that the meaning of each is tainted. The immediate satisfaction of being near someone cures much of this, leaving the singer in full belief of his mostly misguided and grief-stricken view on love. Avoiding the hurt is part of the attraction of a shared love, but it appears as if Michael Angelakos has fallen off to many times to try again right now.
“See what I’ve done now, I don’t understand/ She says I screamed and that I raised my hand/ But I never meant to, wasn’t even there/ I never meant to, I would never dare”
“Cry Like a Ghost” is an interestingly immature song, a look at the regrets of drinking to blackout from the drinker’s perspective. Playing out like an Alcoholics Anonymous made-for-TV movie, the song finds its main character nearly unresponsive at a party, so drunk that he sees finishing a bar’s worth of drinks as a “blurry little quest.” By the end, while walking with his partner, he supposedly acts in violence, perhaps even striking her, forgetting his actions instantly and not realizing anything until the next day.
Surprisingly, there are no repercussions, no conclusion; the song finishes with this image alone. Yet, the imagery and style do not critique alcoholism, instead reading like a man still drinking blindly, never finding when “enough is enough.” The trademark synthwork does not help the message, but the implications are drastic: the man feels no real remorse and is still trapped, waiting for the pendulum-like Sylvia to return to a relationship where she, the ghost, will never again be.
“I watch my little children/ Play some board game in the kitchen/ And I sit and pray they never feel my strife”
“Take a Walk” is a view of singer Michael Angelakos’ family at different points in their lives, mimicking an immigrant-styled tune on the arrival to America. In various scenes, ranging from poverty to wealth and back again, Angelakos’ plays the son, husband, and disenfranchised man, seeing life from the perspective he was raised in and the one his parents, likely caught in the very same scenarios, experienced daily.
In the middle, Angelakos is the father, struggling to make ends meet while learning just a line later that all of his savings are gone. Sitting in silent defeat, he notes his children enjoying youthful innocence and playing in the kitchen. Realizing their very real future, most likely trapped in the same cycle, he hopes that they find a way out, a route to bring the family back from the edge. For so many today, the idea is surprisingly modern, even if Angelakos never intended the song to sound like a Depression-era Steinbeck novel.
“Wake up when you want to/ ’Cause no one’s really watching”
Even living alone, we all get random, paranoid feelings that someone is watching what we do and judging the outcome. In life, this becomes a long-term idea that someone, even if it is only yourself, is marking your actions and setting boundaries for how you live. Passion Pit, however, disagrees with this choice. It is not a question of violating the law, rebelling, or becoming an anarchist, but getting “carried away” from requirements and expectations. Life becomes more interesting when the standards are shed, a luxury that not all can afford, but one that expands the roads to adventure. Rather than waking up on time, why set the invisible goal? Sleep in – it feels better.
“It’s not my fault, I’m happy/Don’t call me crazy, I’m happy”
Too often, absolute bliss and temporary insanity are used interchangeably to insult, citing an act of pleasure as a move away from rationality and the real world. Passion Pit, a band and thus a perfect example, work for happiness through music, a move that many see as detrimental and without a stable future. The result is a common stigma against “happy,” with people hating those who act freely for, well, acting freely. Michael is tired of the insult and finally removes any personal attachment to blame.
Rather than suffer, he trades happy for acceptable like forming a vocal synth band, staying alternative in a very post-Harvard Cambridge-Boston collegiate way. The message runs deep, asking why anyone should be able to label unrequited happiness except for the happy person. Still, in classic Passion Pit contrast fashion, the line is dark, painting a debate between the heart and mind, a loss of sanity when the soul disagrees with itself that makes the later line, “ it’s funny being funny, makes you feel like up and running,” particularly troubling.
“Don’t answer any prayers they have, just lift our callous hearts/ With the bursting rays of August and your cold raindrops of March”
An ode to Mother Nature and God, “Two Veils to Hide My Face” looks for guidance in love, a direction and protection that make the irrational feeling as rhythmic as the seasons. Rather than hoping for the deity to answer prayers and give direct help, only gentle advice is sought, a positive vibe that offsets the greater pain of the album. Love, like the weather, is up and down, sometimes sunny and warm and other times dark and stormy. With the support of nature, aligning secretly with love, the message is clear: the feeling can survive forever.
“Oh my friend, it seems like/Our love is too lovely for everyone else”
The best line on a Passion Pit album does not reveal enough, as the backing band, combination of ambient synth and harsh words, and very serious themes share any credit. Still, “On My Way” features a nugget that transcends the music and personally hits home, a simple two-line phrase that expertly defines the conflict of emotion. Not static, the line reads in two ways that do not actually contradict each other, allowing different people to draw a conclusion unique to their own reality.
In one reading, the pair discovers that their love is the most pure, so personal that others fail to understand it. Love becomes intensely “lovely,” an easy sentiment that reaches surprisingly far. In a darker sense, the line also signals the end of an emotion, a love too complex to continue. Rather than justify, explain, and live with the situation, the singer backs off, citing outward acceptance to cover personal failure. In both senses, Passion Pit craft a surprisingly dramatic line, blending perfectly into an album capable of love, fear, regret and longing all at once.