A love letter inspired by the body of works as produced by the band Passion Pit

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This is a love letter that can be seen addressed to a variety of forms. It is directed to one person and a collection of ideas. This is to the inner strength have to I tell myself that I have and to the friend that lets me sleep on their couch. It’s to those who give me mix playlists. It’s to the music and to the thoughts it gives me.

One of my favorite bands is Passion Pit not because I listen to them all the time or because I think they’re the best, but because their stories of emotional struggle and resilience are universal. It’s a story many people can relate to in their own perseverance. Passion Pit’s music largely deals with love, growth, and the mental health issues that the frontman, Michael Angelakos faces. An overwhelming amount of the songs are sonically upbeat and happy-sounding. Isn’t that true though? You have this inner sadness but you seem so happy to others.

Passion Pit has many loyal fans, fans that have been there from the beginning with Chunk of Change and the clangy, raw, powerful cut of “Sleepyhead.” The EP was actually a Valentine’s Day present that Angelakos made for his girlfriend at the time. The whole EP was him, tracks and vocals, but once the music gained traction, the band fell into place around him for the debut LP. Producing art, whatever form, is the greatest sense of happiness an artist, and especially one that has blue-tinted glasses on, can have. If an artist gives you part of their happiness, that is love.

The band came into themselves with Manners, a body of work like a book, an ode to the sweetness of the beginnings of things. A growing up version of love. It was an album that carried me into the last leg of my high school days. There was something else, however, besides the EP’s caring sentiment. There were songs like “Moth’s Wings” and “Swimming in the Flood.” These songs were boomy, base-driven. They were about how thoughts, like blocks, build and build to amount to our personalities. There wasn’t something wholly happy about the album, although the songs were mainly upbeat, dance-inducing. A little tug of intrigue that I didn’t think much about until their next album, Gossamer.

Gossamer came during the beginning of my sophomore year in college. Freshman year is a challenging time for everyone, I think. I don’t think there’s anyone in college that can say: “I dealt with no issues during the first year that I entered a new level of young adulthood.” There is a level of uncertainty that buzzes in your brain that whole first year. No wonder so many people turn to the party scene. I did and I was part of the culture solidly that second year.

I would listen to this album during my workouts at the gym the morning after the booming late-night rendezvous. I never turned down an evening, I liked the release.

Gossamer was a similar tone. Tracks that had a fast heartbeat and bubbly falsettos. If you listened closely to the words, there was doubt and self-defeatism embedded in the songs.

At these parties I told my friends my problems, my worries, the deep sludge of my thoughts about my self-image. The world was blurry at this point. It was a subconscious tactic to get away with saying what I felt. “Oh I was drunk, I didn’t mean it,” was my nasty little trick I played on myself and my friends. I wasn’t realizing the gravity of what I was doing since in the daylight I was happy and laughing with those same friends. So I carried on, living a normal college existence.

But listening to Gossamer was when I questioned myself. Gossamer was an album about a pain that I understood and I wasn’t really sure why.

A lot happened between Gossamer and Kindred. The albums are a contrast of each other. Gossamer is in the midst of struggling with denial and darkness whereas Kindred is looking up to the sky and wanting to be good to those you love and telling them you’re trying, you’re trying so hard. You didn’t used to have to work this hard.

I first listened to Kindred this year at the coffee shop I lived near in Syracuse. There were three weeks left of school. At this point in my life, I am learning to let go of denial about myself. I need to change how I act. The self-pity routine hurts people who love me and I can’t have that happen anymore. Thinking patterns are my nemesis. So is general anxiousness about everything.

I listened to this album when I was feeling peaceful, a low-glowing lamp that shone on my homework and a coffee by my side. I remember reading an article that day about how Angelakos made this album for his wife. It was about how much he loves her and how hard he is working on his issues with depression for her. It was about how she has helped him through so much.

When you listen to the album, Kindred is a love letter, as Chunk of Change is, but it is so much different. Chunk of Change is youth and learning what it’s like to express your beauty for someone. Kindred is commitment. Kindred is apologizing for the pain of the past to move forward. Kindred is looking at someone and letting them know where you’re at and how you are working hard for them. How you want to be healthy for them.

Sometimes I think of myself in this electrified cage. It’s a nasty electrical charge if you get too close. If you know me from afar, you can’t even see it. I laugh and I joke and I ask about how your day is. People smile and walk by and I’m relieved they don’t really know me. If they do get close, then they see the prison I have created for myself, and it puts them off. They don’t want to get electrocuted, who does? Not everyone leaves, though, and we learn to be friends with what I have.

Then there are the people that have known me for my whole life and they don’t notice the cage. They aren’t phased by my texts asking whether or not an indent on my skull means I have a fracture or texts about how because I said a weird joke, that must mean I’m a bad person. They tell me to knock it off and I do, and for a time I forget about my cage. For a time I remember drawing chalk cartoons on the driveway and smiling.

But then there’s that person that comes and looks at me with longing and happiness and rushes to me, not missing a beat, knowing to be close to me. They grab at the bars of my cage and are scared, hurt. This is the person where their stomach sinks when I say “I’m the worst.” They are hurt by my pain and when I look at them and I feel a fear, a real fear, one that isn’t part of the irrational cloth of nervousness. This fear is that I am hurting people vividly, and that I am hurting someone I care about so much about with words about myself.

This is when I know I need to get out of the cage.

Fare to the well – “Kindred” by Passion Pit

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What do we say to something or someone that changed our inner being?

What do we say to those with no access to context, yet all we can do is talk miles of exposition, of our backstory, of our history? What do we do when we find someone and all we want is to unlock the secret of their significance in our lives?

What do we say to those that can never know what we become? What do we do when we ache as we wish that we can take them with us?

What do we do when the same smile falls from person to person over and over again when we leave? What do we do when we get used to seeing that blankness? What do we become when we start to throw caution, brevity and social graces out because we’ll be a memory soon enough anyway?

Where do we go to feel relevant? Where do we go to stop living in the past and exceed beyond what is expected of us?

What do we do when we find the ones that we love more than the sky above and yet we know we have to let them go? Why do we have to learn to let go so early on when these presences have only just woven into the fabric of our lives?

When should you stop and look at the ground to notice the worms wriggling? Will these lost moments haunt us when we look outside of office building windows onto the pavement that are stories below?

Why do we wonder? Why do we allow ourselves to think into so many holes, into so many crevices? Why do we forget that we’re so unabashedly, unequivocally loved, so intensely present with people here? Why do we think we’re alone? Why is there sludge in our minds?

When is the right moment to part? When is the right time to smile and say the words that we dread? Will we make those we leave happy with our actions? Will we inspire those who have time to catch up to us? Will we overdo it? Will we not put enough effort into it? Will we ever feel satisfied or fulfilled?

When we are sitting on a summer day, when the lightning bugs are flittering around and everything is sweet in the air and droopy, drowsy smiles seem to hang on everyone’s faces, will we think of the beauty of this moment? Will we think of you?

Will we still wonder what we are wondering now?

Why do we have to leave?

Why do we have to say good bye?

First Listen Look-Back: Dance Yrself Clean

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James Murphy is a king in a musical candy store. Notes and forte pianos are for his taking. A rhythm here, a chord there, what seems to be random picks are calculated equations. He is shaping the modern notion of electronica, rock and lyricism into a tasty musical blend.
Of course, you don’t know all of this at the beginning. In the beginning, there’s just the song and how it makes you feel. And for me, what other song could it be?
When I first listened to Dance Yrself Clean, I didn’t know about the length. I didn’t know that I had 9 minutes in store for me. All I knew was that my cousin sent me a link simply saying: “Listen to this with good headphones on and at full blast.”
Woah. That sort of simplicity is daunting. Not even a “love the part when the keyboard comes in” or “the guitar solo rocks.” The song itself speaks for itself.
So I put on the headphones and began.
The song starts.
Okay. And it’s… Still starting.
More starting.
Is this it? Is this the song? I thought. I mean, it’s good but I don’t feel like it’s going anywhere. The layered vocals are nice and the minimalist percussion is cool but it’s not really much…
And then the 3:06 mark hits.
HOLY SHIT.
My brain and life exploded and everything in existence became that song. NOTHING else mattered.
The drop was killer and ballsy and funky and just plain cool. Murphy came back in with echoey force that never overstretched his shouting vocals.
“Don’t you want me to wake up? Then give me just a bit of your time.”
The percussion was just perfect for the keyboard bursts and melodies. His falsetto weaved through the music and the song just became this vehicle for dancing. Try not dancing to this song. I dare you.
Both the Murphy and I gained a break after his amazingly long note hold. The song winded down to the way it was for the intro, but not for long. Back in dance mode with some scat.
The song closed out in its fancy dance-y fashion and then slowed down for the last few lyrics.
“Every day’s a different warning – there’s a part of me hoping it’s true.”
By the end of the stream, I was standing, panting, mind blown. I listened to it ten more times after that.
So if you haven’t listened to this song by now, I suggest you go… dance yourself clean.

Dancing’s Done by Thumpers – Edward Hopper eat your heart out

Whenever I walk through the Loop, I feel like I am entering a 1940’s photograph.

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It isn’t just the architecture or the beautiful emphasis on the beige and stone in the buildings. It isn’t just the steel or the above-ground subway system or the smoke rising from the grates.
It’s the way that the sun hits the side of the buildings, how the windows reflect the sky. It’s the way that the sunlight beams through each avenue, weaving its way through grid after grid of skyscraper. It’s the bustle of commuters and workers and the dawn all merging into one.
Buildings and light make me feel nostalgic for art museums. I still go to them, but as a kid the Art Institute wasn’t an uncommon field trip experience. I got to go much more often than nowadays. The closest that I got to reliving that experience was when I was in London and I had the opportunity to go to the National Portrait Gallery or the British Museum nearly every day.
Buildings and light make me especially feel nostalgic for learning about Edward Hopper. I remember first learning about Night Hawks in school and then when I saw the real deal, that was it. The starkness in each painting was prolific. The seemingly simplicity was, in reality, shaded and layered. It may just seem like a woman looking out of a window sitting in a coffee shop, but just think – what is she wondering about?
These feelings can be found in Chicago. The buildings, tall and brown and the sun hitting against the edges to cast shadows onto the pavement. Finding a coffee shop and sitting at the window table and watching the rest of the world walk by.
The song that I feel compliments these variations of rumination is Dancing’s Done by Thumpers. The percussion, the trickling notes, the layered vocals. It’s breathless and impactful all at once. Simple yet complex. And it makes looking at the start sunbeam-lit building all the more beautiful as the morning comes into fruition.