Passenger – “Whispers”
I’ve never cared much for Michael David Rosenberg’s (aka passenger) voice. I find it rather airy and to be honest, I scrunched up my forehead the first time I heard “Let her go” from his 2012 album “All the little lights”.
But, I promised myself that I would always look deeper into the artists that I encounter. Give them a chance to impress me with the other elements of their craft, and his latest album “Whispers” has certainly delivered…
The thing about Rosenberg’s voice is that it’s memorable, recognizable. In the same way that Bob Dylan’s voice is unmistakable. And similarly to Dylan, when you hear the husky smoke ridden tone of Passenger, there’s a pretty good chance that he’s got something profound to say.
There are 2 stand out tracks on this album that have caught my attention. The first of these is “Rolling Stone”. Like most of the album, the music arrangement is beautifully simplistic. The chord progression is familiar, and the bass beat isn’t overpowering. It’s soulful without being Soul. The addition of different layers throughout the song is enough to keep us listening; listen for the subtle xylophone playing an octave above the guitar in between verses, then the brass that quietly changes the tone after the first chorus, and lastly the backing vocals that help emphasize the 2nd verse and chorus.
The lyrics in this song are so beautifully crafted. It is the mark of a great wordsmith when he can say so much while saying so little, and Rosenberg paints a masterpiece with each 4 line verse. Maybe it’s because I can relate to what he is saying so well, but I challenge you to read these 4 lines and tell me you don’t have or want this person in your life:
“…Sometimes I feel like I’m falling
Falling fast and falling free
She says my darling you’re not falling
It always looked like you were flying to me…”
The second song that really speaks to me is “Riding to New York”. Rosenberg shows off his story telling skills, and the subtle heart beat like rhythm floats the lyrics on a cloudy canvas. I love the way Rosenberg builds a picture in my mind by dancing around the meaning of what he’s saying. In a sense, it’s like the difference between an ID photo and the Mona Lisa; they’re both a portrait picture of a person, but da Vinci poured hours of passion and just enough mystery to keep the world fascinated for centuries.
I’m not saying that we’ll be listening to this song on heavy rotation for the next 300 years, but I am saying that Rosenberg has taken a story that could just be words on a page, and turned it into a memory. Perhaps it’s the Irish in me, or the fact that I’m a father, but I can’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy when I hear sentimental stories of people reconnecting with family. Especially when there are children involved.
Take the time to listen to this one. If you’d like to read the lyrics as you listen, click here. I hope you can take away from it what I have.
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7 August 2014