Mike “Passenger” Rosenberg became an international success with his smash hit “Let Her Go” back in 2012, yet conversely, mainstream success was never what he stood for.
A folk artist through and through, it can easily be assessed that Passenger writes his tracks from the bottom of his heart–from deep within his gut. Each track present on his records stands for a personal truth, dispersed over a set of written bars and chords into an emotion-invoking melody that listeners will likely relate to. The point that I can assess about Passenger’s music is that it tell a story that relates to himself that just might relate to others. It’s because of his ability to craft a so-often-times simplistic yet convincing track that he has maintained an innumerable growth in the industry that’s only second fiddle to his status as a true artist.
It almost seems needless to say, but Passenger’s 2014 full-length effort follows this trend of excellent songwritership masterfully. Each track on Whispers inhabits its own space yet contributes to a complete whole, transferring Rosenberg’s poetical reflections on his own life into a soft-spoken ballad as easily as it does into a rock-influenced romper.
Furthermore, it’s not just that the stories being written are passionate, but it’s that the world-worn grit in Passenger’s vocal tone is able to convey them just as passionately. Paired with vibrant and telling compositions, they make a team like no other to develop a song worthy of a repeat not just for the infectious basis of the hook (“Start A Fire”) or the beauteous and brooding string accompaniment (“Golden Leaves”), but for stories as emotively monumental as they are down-to-earth. Stories that could make a difference for the listening audience.
Therein lies the true glory of Passenger: the secret to his success. The secret is that there is no bloody secret! He’s an honest man making honest music who always seems to hit the nail squarely on the head in understand purely what he believes music to be in his own mind, and that in and of itself should be the only basis of success for anyone in the industry. The fact that at least a couple of true artists are achieving a mainstream success and a “name for themselves” is a stupendous thing to see, however, and something that lends applause to the hundreds of thousands of people who support them.
Alongside his buddy Ed Sheeran, Passenger is making fantastic strides not only in the industry but as a self-made man. The urgency of the truths on display on Whispers come in droves with each one cutting deeper than the last. Not everything about being a success in the music industry is something to laud, and Mike is utterly honest about that. As he says on “27”, the only way he can be is to say what he sees, and he does exactly that in every single track on the album.
Musically, he dares to explore arrangements that he hasn’t quite touched in his 11 years on the scene. The aforementioned “27” is a rocking full-on romp featuring all manner of strings, keys and percussion before stripping itself down in order to place emphasis on a heart-ripping, honest lyrical centerpiece, only to build itself back up again before the song’s rollicking end. “Golden Leaves” features, as before-mentioned, a gorgeous string ensemble that accentuates a lingering feeling of nostalgic longing. Meanwhile, sparse acoustic instrumentation on “Heart’s On Fire” really helps in making Rosenberg’s vocal the focal point in order to deliver one of the more hopeful tracks on the album.
Irregardless of the specific theme of the music he’s playing, he manages to deliver it convincingly on every last track, surely emitting feelings from the listener that they may not have expected to have while giving Whispers a good listen. Not much else could be said on this review that wouldn’t sound like backtracking and saying the same thing over and over again: Passenger is a brilliant songwriter with the gift of a timeless tone capable of convincingly vocalizing any life story that he sees fit. Whispers is no different, featuring one great track after another that anyone could find a reason to love.
One more thing of note would be that the deluxe version of the album is astoundingly well-designed, featuring a pop-up design on the booklet’s first page and several beautiful hand-designed images to accompany most of the lyrics. There are also a couple of touching pieces of prose tossed into the lyric pages for good measure where Rosenberg sits down and writes out the specific meaning behind some of his songs. What songs they are would be up to you to find out if you choose to purchase the deluxe version on Amazon for $15.99, but trust me, those alone are worth the premium price.
Alternatively, you can pick up the deluxe version of the album on iTunes for $13.99. That’s 18 tracks for about 77 cents a pop. If you bought each song individually, that’d cost you $23.22! Talk about a discount!
You can follow Passenger on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all of the latest on his musical exploits and otherwise! If you fancy, you can also follow me on Twitter for all of the latest reviews, interviews and more!