After a tremendous achievement in 2013 following the release of "Let Her Go" Michael David Rosenberg has steadily climbed as a solo artist under the retention of his former band's name, Passenger. Following his number one hit, Passenger has embarked on his 2014 Whispers Tour that has promoted his latest album of the same name to sell out crowds around the world. A voice that retains a soft tone yet carries a raspy edge, which is probably due to a lyric mentioned in the track "27", Passenger has combined his vocals with folk influenced melodies and his life experiences that gives us the album, Whispers.
Coins In A Fountain
Coins In A Fountain is about being optimistic in a world full of pessimists. As the song mentions, it is a lantern in the darkness where bits and pieces of light at a distance resemble the coins in a fountain. Where love is anything, from a newborn to a unicorn, to Mike, it is his music. The track has English folk melodies and not so traditional instrumentation. We hear a glockenspiel with strings lingering in the background. The hand drums give off a more organic feel to the overall effect of the track. A great song to set up the record and what it consists of.
A quick paced song where the lyrics are fast but inspiring enough to memorize, "27" tells about Mike's journey thus far. The struggles and frustrations of the music industry and life itself are expressed in this track but induce hope and inspiration. "27 years now, only thing I know, I know that I don't know how, to please everybody all of the time, cos everybody is always fucking changing their minds." From the 87,000 cigarettes that have contributed to the raspy voice that surround Mike, to the messy breakups they are words not to be revered as failure, rather optimism. It is one of the best tracks on the record and one of my favorites already.
Heart's On Fire
The influence of English folk music emerge in this track about love during, love after, and love endured. The lyrics are simple yet powerful in context singing, "Oh darling my heart's on fire for you." We see a simple love, where nothing else is required to be rich in life. The video that accompanies the track is amazing and simple as it shows Passenger singing of love and as time passes in the video, we see an aged Passenger reliving his memories of a love pure and rich in innocence.
My favorite track on the album for its rich composition. Based on a true event to an acquaintance of Mike's where losing a collection of meaningless, random bullets to a theft was more hurtful than losing the other material things that carried more monetary value. The collection of bullets are significant as they have stood the test of time. It was not an attachment to the tangible items as it was the intangible that surrounded the bullets. The music itself is carried by a soft harmonica melody at the beginning with a chord sequence of the piano that give a direct feel on a mellow track.
"I can't live with you, but I'd die without." Two golden leaves are symbolic of two former lovers at the end, like the golden leaves that are left clinging to winter trees. Just the simple acoustic guitar supported by a string quartet give this track it's final breath of a dying relationship. Quite frankly, it is a beautiful break up song. It is a song interpreted by Mike himself as a couple who have reached the pinnacle of their relationship where there's simply nothing else to say.
Remaining positive in a sometimes not-so-positive world where despite being a fish with no water, the morning sun will keep shining. Thunder, while singing of less than fortunate circumstances to uplifting music is a perfect blend that carries on the theme present in this album. It is also a recurring theme in Passenger's songwriting. When asked in an interview about the composition regarding this track his response was simple, "I had no idea what it's about". Well, I understand it, I see the meaning, I love it !
A track most likely referring to the whirlwind that is Passenger's music career, from traveling to unknown places, singing to unfamiliar faces despite the success, it can become quite lonely. A familiar face promises to be there should he fall.
Start A Fire
The three verses that make up Start A Fire tell a tale of a man going through the stages of life. Set to an old western feel in the music, the 16th note sequence give the track a feeling of urgency in a life rapidly passing by. Verse one tells of a child living in simpler times where cold nights and snow trigger the impulse to start a fire. Verse 2 is a next phase of life where now all that remains is a cold heart in need of a fire within. The final verse is an older version of the individual lighting the fire once more before it is too late. Towards the end of the track the music slows until it reaches a stop a symbolism in slowing down and enjoying life once more.
What may be reflecting once again on the musical journey that has surrounded Passenger, the lyrics sing softly throughout the track and share the same theme that has lingered. Following his immidiate rise in his music career Passenger was overwhelmed at the sight of himself at every turn. From billboards to reading about himself everywhere, he wasn't sure of how to react. "Oh everyone's filling me up with noise. I don't know what they're talking about." "You see all I need is a whisper in a world that only shouts."
Riding To New York
Rosenberg has proven himself to be a teller of stories and has done remarkably at that. This track tells a powerful story based on an experience on the roads of America. While in search of a cigarette, Rosenberg came across a cross country traveler who was living his last days due to an advanced stage of lung cancer. He decided to spend his final days riding his motorcycle to New York. The inspiration of the stranger led Passenger to stray from smoking and instead write this amazing track.
Scare Away The Dark
Another perfectly arranged song and well placed track on the Whispers album. It is a final word of advice. Where according to Mike and rightfully so, in most recent years we have seen technology taking over. Life passes in front of us and we are now glued to a sort of computer screen and have become lured into trending topics, rumors, and hashtags. The track is a final word of advice to let it go for a moment and enjoy life outside of technology. The song urges, "Well sing, sing at the top of your voice, and love without fear in your heart."
Upon selling out venues around the world, Michael Rosenberg remains true to himself despite the ever-growing success. Known as busking, Passenger still grabs his guitar, finds a quiet public spot for a more intimate performance and plays his set to those who cannot attend one of his shows. Whispers is an album worthy of full price as much as Passenger is worth seeing in concert. He writes of music we all have experienced or can relate to. The music is soft on the ears, yet strong enough on the vocals to inspire. Truly a remarkable and great album of 2014. Bittersweet to Mike and all of his fans, the Whispers album artwork was nominated for a Grammy. Yes, the most prestigious award in music nominated Passenger for it's album art work, not the music. But like "27" says about his music, "I don't give a fuck if they get to the charts"
This album was brought to my attention by my better half who insisted I give it a chance. I am ever grateful for the opportunity to share this album to all readers as it truly is an unforgettable record.
"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
"Hey Ho, Let's Go"