On Passion Pit’s dichotomous new album, sounds can be deceiving.Just before the 2009 release of Passion Pit’s debut LP, Manners, frontman Michael Angelakos had a breakdown. The pressure of burgeoning stardom — built up from the release of one EP that Angelakos crafted on his dorm-room computer — took its toll on the then-22-year-old, who suffers from bipolar disorder, and he wound up in a hospital for more than a month.
The group’s latest album, Gossamer (Columbia, $12), is the result of several rough years that followed, though you’d be forgiven if you didn’t realize it on first listen. The Boston band’s upbeat, electro-pop melodies disguise more sober, autobiographical lyrics — a juxtaposition that’s become one of their calling cards. Angelakos, who grew up idolizing the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, admits the contrast has led to some confusion in the past.
“People are singing along to these songs at the shows, they’re jumping and dancing, and the content is so sad,” he says, laughing. “Now I find it really funny. But at certain points early on, I was confused, like, ‘Can people hear that? Don’t people read lyrics?’ And I realized, no, no they don’t.”
That might account for the more prominent lyrical emphasis on Gossamer, which differs from previous Passion Pit releases that saw the words sonically buried under hundreds of samples and sound bites. That’s not to say that the group has lost its trademark multilayered approach, but this time around, Angelakos — along with producer Chris Zane, who also helmed Manners — made a conscious effort to make his voice easier to hear.
“We wanted to make sure we emphasized the mix on this record because there’s so much detail,” Angelakos says. “We were proud of that, and we wanted to show it.”
Though Angelakos, who records the albums with minimal input from his bandmates, confesses to being “a bit of a” perfectionist — “Actually, no, I am just flat-out a perfectionist,” he corrects himself — he can also admit, for perhaps the first time in his career, to being completely satisfied with a finished product, something he calls “totally unfamiliar territory.”
Between his excitement over the new album, his health and his continued engagement to his fiancée, Kristy, Angelakos finds himself in a good place when we speak in May. But as is the nature of his condition, the feeling is fleeting; two months later, he announces the cancellation of several tour dates to focus on improving his mental health. Fortunately, music may ultimately hold the key to his well-being. “It’s almost like therapy,” he says of his craft. “It’s been really good for me.”