on 11 June 2014
"Let Her Go" brought Mike Rosenberg to the attention of the world, but some of us knew how brilliant he was long before that. Many will be surprised to know that this is his 5th studio album (although "Flight of the Crow" was an album of collaborations with other artists), and each album brings more mature songwriting and greated depth of lyrics. The added acoustic versions on the deluxe album are truly wonderful, and are in the true spirit of Passenger, who always performs live with nothing more than his acoustic guitar. I'd already heard the majority of the songs on the album live, some on tour at the end of last year and some on his brilliant busking tour a few weeks ago (thanks Mike - how great that you can still manage to do what you love and raise a few quid for a good cause at the same time) and the multi instrument album versions certainly don't disappoint either as they still maintain the simplicity of his music. Great to see that fame has not gone to his head and he has produced an album that stands out for its great songs, not for any attempt to have a broad commerical appeal. He has proven with this album that you can stay true to yourself , just produce great music, and people will buy it.
on 9 June 2014
The deluxe version is a thing of beauty. The pop-up artwork is a really nice touch and the lyrics sheets inside are quite quaint and cool too. Before you even take the CD's from the cases, this is an awesome album - the nicest album in terms of design I have ever owned.
If you go for the deluxe version you won't be disappointed - the acoustic versions really add to the album and the design of the album is, as mentioned, stunning. All this on top of 11 great original songs by an artist that simply seems to get better and better...
I had been vaguely aware of Passenger for a little while, but had written “them” (as I didn't know it was a solo venture) off as just another one of these tedious Ed Sheeran-like acts who dropped expletives and consonants in equal measure without ever saying anything worth hearing. Apparently there was rather a fuss made of the song “Let Her Go” at the time which seems to have brought Passenger all of the current attention, but all of that passed me by as I very rarely listen to the radio. My very benign opinion of Passenger changed recently when two friends who, as far as I'm concerned, have rather good taste in music, raved about him and piqued my interest enough to look Passenger (a.k.a. Brightonian Michael Rosenberg) up. Despite his ties with the aforementioned Sheeran (someone I really cannot stand, musically), I became intrigued by both his longevity in the music industry and also his busking days, intrigued enough to buy his last couple of albums and, boy, am I glad I did. This guy is a truly gifted songwriter. I admit, I had to get past his voice at the beginning, it sounded very much the kind of “trying hard to be ordinary” vocal delivery I'm not overly keen on, but the character and substance of the material, as well as the personality and sheer talent of Rosenberg won me over very quickly indeed.
As a relatively new fan, I'm able to approach “Whispers” with little to no expectations and very little to compare it with in terms of Passenger's previous albums. The first thing that strikes me is the attention to detail in the beautiful, retro artwork on the CD sleeve and insert (see what you're missing, digital downloaders?), making the whole package look like a book for children. As for the music itself, it's an absolute delight to listen to from beginning to end. The picks on the album are plentiful. “27”, a brilliantly verbose, profane summary of Mike's life so far is inspired, coming across like a cross between Newton Faulkner and David Ford, with a rather lovely violin break in the middle. The tender love song that is “Heart's On Fire” hits the right balance of romanticism and earnestness without a hint of saccharine. “Golden Leaves” has the feel of a classic seventies singer/songwriter composition, so much so that it almost feels as if I have heard it before; regardless, it's undeniably gorgeous and the blend of acoustic guitar and string quartet is the perfect touch. The irrepressible “Thunder” is an upbeat beauty, shimmering, catchy and full of positive imagery juxtaposed with fatalistic self-observations; it's also surely a massive hit in waiting.
I was trying to avoid the comparisons, but on “Start A Fire”, I really can't help it. There are brief moments where you can hear a slight influence, but on this track it is literally impossible to not hear Mumford & Sons, most pointedly in the brass instrumental breaks between the chorus and verse. It's a rather good song, though. The excellent title track, with lyrics that sees Rosenberg vulnerable and unsure of himself, gains momentum throughout and results in an edgy, highly emotional conclusion. The wonderfully expansive folk-leanings of “Riding To New York” is a good example of just why I rate Passenger so highly, namely his ability to convey short stories which engage and intrigue the listener, all embellished with graceful, enticing music. There are, again, echoes of one of my favourite artists, David Ford, on the magnificent “Scare Away The Dark”, a discontented, thoroughly rousing rant about modern life (“We wish we weren't losers and liars and quitters/We want something more not just nasty and bitter/We want something real not just hashtags and Twitter”) and it ends a marvellous, accomplished album on a huge high. Produced by Mike and Chris Vallejo and recorded at Vallejo's Linear Recording Studios in Sydney, Australia, “Whispers” is difficult to fault, both in terms of sound and content. If, like me, you have dismissed Passenger as just another one of those bland singer/songwriter blokes, I would urge you to give both him and this album a chance because I suspect you'll be more than pleasantly surprised if you do.
As soon as I picked this album up, and took the cellophane off to reveal the stunning packaging, in the style of an old fashioned children's storybook with lovely artwork and a cool lyrics booklet - I just knew that I purchased something quite beautiful.
I bought this album after being blown away by Mike Rosenberg's last album 'All The Little Lights', which is one of my favourite releases of recent years. I was eager to hear more material, and 'Whispers' is the natural follow up. Simple put, if you enjoyed the last one, do not hesitate in buying.
Is it even better? Yes, I would say so, but perhaps it's still early days for me to say for certain just yet. The opening track 'Coins In A Fountain' has become my new favourite Passenger song, in fact, I played it continuously eight times before I even listened to the rest of the songs. Then I moved onto 'Hearts On Fire', and did the same thing. Another instant favourite is 'Thunder', and although there are naturally some songs on the album that I like more than others, I don't think there are any obvious fillers among them.
This man is one of the most original, and genuinely talented singer/songwriters in today's popular music. He has a way with words, not to mention an acoustic guitar, and can pen a meaningful and interesting song as good as any. I eagerly await the next album.
on 16 December 2014
What an album. A fantastic collection of songs that have been on my constant playlist for weeks now. Track after track sticks in the memory, and I could highlight them all, but raising everything above a very high bar are Bullets, Scare Away The Dark, Rolling Stone, Riding To New York and Whispers. An absolute classic.