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Passenger transcends hit single ‘Let Her Go’ with masterful new album

By Evan Malachosky / For The Pitt News

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Passenger

Whispers

Grade: A

Unlike the title of his most recent release, the past two years have been nothing to whisper about for Passenger. 

Still riding the coattails of his breakout single, “Let Her Go,” Michael David Rosenberg, the man behind Passenger, has stepped out of the song’s enormous shadow for his second album, Whispers. There may not be a hit to carry it to the top of the charts, but all 11 songs come together for a more fluid and well-crafted album than Rosenberg’s previous release, 2012’s All the Little Lights

Whispers is a more upbeat collection of tunes than Lights. The records share only two similarities: vocal reflection and the number of studio tracks. In contrast to the deep, soulful and often-sorrowful releases of the past, Whispers is more cheerful. 

The album begins with “Coins In A Fountain,” a song that explodes with metaphorical explanations of love and favors the catchy over the sappy. Rosenberg sings of love being “the last unicorn.” Although it may be quite a stretch, it’s a promising sign — Passenger hasn’t lost his gentle soul or eloquent speech. 

Whenever artists enter the mainstream, some of their most devoted fans feel they’ve sold out or altered their sound completely to appeal to a wider audience. Rosenberg has actively avoided this phenomenon. He explains in “27” that he “Don’t want the devil to be taking my soul/ I write songs that come from my heart/ I don’t give a f*ck if they get into the chart.”

Rosenberg’s storytelling is currently unmatched in mainstream music. On songs like “Riding to New York,” “Bullets” and “Scare Away the Dark” it is nearly impossible not to get wrapped up in the storytelling. The warmth of his words and comfort of the melodies resemble a midnight bonfire, a group of close-knit friends belting out in harmony or a grandfather sharing stories of better times. 

In “Riding to New York,” Rosenberg recalls a scene where, “I asked where are you going to?/ He said, ‘I’m the wind, I’m just blowing through.’/ He lit up a cigarette and began to talk.” Rosenberg can turn a minuscule conversation into a wondrous narrative. 

The deluxe version of the album features 10 acoustic versions. Only one track, “Scare Away the Dark,” is left without an acoustic rendition. Despite not having an alternate version, it stands out as a highlight with another gripping narrative. In the song, Rosenberg gives his take on modern day technology: “We’re scared of drowning, flying and shooters,/ but we’re all slowly dying in front of f*cking computers.” 

Despite his condemnation of  Internet-addiction, Rosenberg owes much of his success to it. Passenger’s newest album is all over the web, but Rosenberg doesn’t seem to care if you buy it — just that his songs still come from the heart. 

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Passenger transcends hit single ‘Let Her Go’ with masterful new album