thu 18/07/2024

CD: Passenger – Whispers II | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Passenger – Whispers II

CD: Passenger – Whispers II

Sequel album even more raw, spare and gritty, despite gentle folk-pop sound

Whispers II: quiet, but packs a punch

Mike Rosenberg kept the name "Passenger" for his solo folk-pop project even when the rest of the band left in 2009, even though, for a one-man outfit, the concept of being a passenger is a curious one. (Who’s driving then?) For the most part, this 16-song, two-CD release continues the gentle-sounding but hard-hitting storytelling of last year’s Whispers.

That album didn’t make too many waves (the hit single “Let Her Go” made up for that) but confirmed Rosenberg’s reputation among folk-pop connoisseurs – happy for Ed Sheeran and James Blunt to be spoiled by raving attention – for grit and authenticity.

These are admirably frank and intimate songs, touching on love, death, travel and addiction. (The project is the more impressive because the profits from this album are donated to UNICEF’s campaign to help malnourished children in Liberia.) The vulnerable, velvet rasp is perfectly freighted for Rosenberg’s blend of the hopeful and weary, while arrangements are even more stripped-back than Whispers, with often only a finger-picked acoustic to accompany his often pungent vignettes, whose bleakness belies the accessible folk-pop sound.

If anything, the style is a little too diverse, veering a little uneasily between British-style campaigning folk in “David” to a much more American-country sound in “Travelling Alone”. Songs as emotionally rooted as these need deep generic roots to match. The lyrics are mostly pitched just right – delicate and poised without drawing attention to themselves – which makes it unfortunate that Rosenberg should lose control with some awkward jangly rhymes now and then. Water's still “running like a greyhound” in “Nothing’s Changed”, for example? Chasing a hare round in circles? Bath-time with Rosenberg must be a lively experience. They’re the exceptions, though: whispers are usually our most intimate utterances, and this release will only confirm Rosenberg’s reputation for true-grained confessionals.  

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