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The Pop Culture Wing of Hot Corner Harbor

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Music Mondays: "Until We Can't (Let's Go)" by Passion Pit

After something of a break, I’m coming back to finish up my promised three-part series on Passion Pit’s Kindred. Today’s song: “Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)”.

(Also, this was supposed to actually go up on Monday, but then I fell asleep working on it two nights in a row, so that didn’t happen.)

“Until We Can’t” was the third song revealed from Kindred, and it brought my excitement even higher than “Lifted Up (1985)” or “Where the Sky Hangs” had, which was not an easy task. The song just feels immediately big, with a slow, shimmering build into crashing synth chords. Those chords essentially form the backbone of the song, returning for all of the huge choruses and giving the song a sense of purpose. The contrasts with the relatively restrained verses only serve to emphasize the highs and lows.

The lyrics are their own kind of special. They lack the poetry of “Where the Sky Hangs”, but they do feel like a lot of other Passion Pit works. While they’re a lot more direct than songs like “Little Secrets”, the lyrics do the same great job conveying a sense of unease and anxiety. Frontman Michael Angelakos has publically struggled with a variety of mental health issues, and his songs seem like they have been one of his ways of working through them. He’s great at conveying those emotions lyrically as well. Thankfully, “Until We Can’t” (and really, a lot of Kindred) feels like it finds him in a much better place than he’s been in the past, still confronting those issues but coping with them. There’s a sense of restlessness to it, feeling uncomfortable with where you are and wanting to start over; but also the sense that it’s not really the location causing the problem, but yourself, and you jut don’t want to address it. But through it all, there’s a definite sense of optimism to it-that you will find your way out of it eventually, and not stop trying until you do. This one might be my favorite song on Kindred (well, it’s either this, or the next one that I cover).

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Disappointing Case of Tomorrowland

If I were to boil down Tomorrowland to a single phrase, it would be “Meet the Robinsons’ dumb younger cousin”. I’ve long found Meet the Robinsons to be a solid movie, and an underrated entry in the Disney canon, but it took Tomorrowland for me to appreciate how the former does the concept of “optimism-powered, look how awesome the future is!” right. Spoilers ahead, although I’ll specifically mark big ones.

I think the biggest problem is that Tomorrowland is very self-assured that what it’s saying is intelligent without being able to back it up, instead offering up references to smarter things or pining for better times or attacking strawmen or just straight up not doing anything to cover up its problems. For instance, there’s a character named Hugo Gernsback (played by the extremely underutilized Keegan-Michael Key*). Like many things in Tomorrowland, I at first smiled when I discovered that the owner of the science fiction memorabilia store was named “Hugo”; it’s a cute little throwaway gag. Then it goes deeper and reveals that his last name is Gernsback, immediately becoming straight-up cheesy (and as if daring the audience to pick up on its reference-“are you one of the smart ones who will catch this?”). And then, it reveals that it really doesn’t have anything for Hugo to do, and he becomes a plot device before exiting the movie for good, no real impact on the story so to speak of.

 *Also underutilized is his partner Ursula, played by Kathryn Hahn. Based on the rest of the movie, I'm assuming they just didn't have the space to drop that her character's last name was "Le Guin".