Passenger - Whispers
Released June 6, 2014
By Charlie Dims
There are many different types of themed-albums that artists release. There are the I-Love-You-So-Much-I-Can’t-Contain-It albums, the I-Hate-You-So-Much-I’m-Going-To-Bash-You-Endlessly albums, the Baby-Please-Forgive-Me-I-Was-All-Wrong albums, the Society-Is-Going-Downhill-Fast albums. Passenger’s new album Whispers, like the best of music, does not fit into one neat category. If anything, an alternative title might be the 27 album. This is not just because the singer Passenger (birth name Michael David Rosenberg) has a song on the album called 27 (he’s currently 30, in case you’re wondering). The song itself, the second one on Whispers, is a fair representation of the album as a whole. It’s not that the theme of being thirty, or just near it, hasn’t been covered before. Plenty of artists over the years have written about the uncertainty, the cigarettes, the found and lost love, and the general craziness that comes with reaching a new age milestone. What sets Passenger apart is their precision for detail and authenticity. When the lyrics come together, it’s found that the combination of details (“87,000 cigarettes”, “8 years sleeping”, “5 proper girlfriends and 5 messy breakups”) and universal feelings (“Don’t know where I’m running, but I know how to run/’Cause running’s the thing I’ve always done/Said I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know what I’ve done/I’m a hungry heart, I’m a loaded gun”) adds up to not just a documentation of one life, but of life itself. Though Passenger’s name has a certain connotation of being just one of the guys, just another rider making their way through life, Passenger’s crafted verses and intimate musical style makes him a standout. He writes and sings with a stable force that demands to be listened to.
In the first song Coins in a Fountain, he sings, “Love is the only song I’ll sing.” However, it’s not just relationships that Whispers touches on. There are songs of a dying stranger’s last wishes (Riding to New York), a father holding on to his last relics of the past (Bullets), the need to find a place to settle down (Rolling Stone), the search for meaning in a life of lonely drunken nights and unanswered certainties (the title track), and abandoning the brainwashed rituals of society in order to find freedom (Scare Away the Dark).
At one point, Passenger sings about the conflict of writing “songs from the heart” and fearing that one must “sell out if [they] want to get sold.” Yet, after hearing the quality of art here, Passenger should have nothing to worry about. This is not an album of rock-pop intensity, but that’s not just what makes Whispers the perfect title for this record. It’s sometimes the smaller things, the hushed tones of truth, that affect us the most.