Passenger – Whispers

Passenger - Whisper

Whispers, album cover by Passenger

Listening to Whispers, the fifth album by Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, is not unlike being in a British pub listening to a local musician play songs to an attentive audience over a pitcher of draft beer.

In this pub, Passenger has the small crowd in his palm of his hand as he sings songs of personal experiences and perspectives, love, story-telling, and at several points throughout, provides everyone the chance to sing along.

It’s a very real image when listening to the British songwriter’s record because the songs are performed with such intimacy, it’s like a private jam session from his mouth and guitar to your ear. It’s not even so much that the lyrics themselves are necessarily personal, it’s how he performs them to give them that impression.

A lot is learned about the folk singer with the unique voice on Whispers. He takes a staunch position on how his career is handled; as he says in 27, he doesn’t care if his songs make the chart, he won’t be selling his soul to the devil for fame.

In fact, Passenger comes across as a very traditionally-minded guy. He believes people should embrace nature and surroundings rather than screens, where on Scare Away The Dark, he leaves with “we’re all slowly dying in front of fucking computers.”

It’s a distaste for technology that resonates with his music, allowing it to sound intimate and authentic, and performed completely free of any gadgets – as is evidenced on the deluxe edition bonus tracks which consist of acoustic versions, performed solo.

But perhaps the most interesting quality of Passenger’s songwriting comes with how he observes experiences and converts them into song. As he writes on the title track, “all I need’s a whisper/in a world that only shouts.”

In returning to the pub setting, the liner notes of Passenger’s album (which are very nicely designed!) include a backstory for several songs, much like how a live act would tell prior to a performance. In both cases, Bullets and Riding To New York, he sings of men he only briefly interacted with but picked up enough about them to extrapolate into stories that formed these songs.

These are when he’s his greatest as he captures the stories well. While some songs can come off as preachy, judgmental and cliche, Passenger is at his best when he’s telling a story and interpreting adventure, whether someone else’s or his own.

It’s unfortunate that he’s likely resigned to being listed a one-hit-wonder on account of the fluke hit Let Her Go from his breakthrough record last year, as he has so much to offer beyond that one lucky -or unlucky- break. Whispers is a strong followup to All The Little Lights and when finished, you’ll want to shake his hand and buy him a bottle of ale.
Four stars

1. Coins In A Fountain
2. 27
3. Heart’s On Fire
4. Bullets
5. Golden Leaves
6. Thunder
7. Rolling Stone
8. Start A Fire
9. Whispers
10. Riding To New York
11. Scare Away The Dark

Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again

After the perfection that was Body Talk in 2010, Robyn does what only Robyn could, take a sharp left turn.

The former 90s pop sensation has made many twists in her music since gradually penetrating the alternative pop music scene over the last decade. She’s won the respect that few former teen pop stars – JT included – could ever dream of, and by now, she has little left to prove.

Such freedom is probably how she could pull off following the trilogy of EPs that made up the Body Talk era with another EP, a collaborative effort with Norwegian electronic duo Röyksopp called Do It Again. Continue reading

Gay man’s currency

Sam Smith

A few months ago I read an article on the Huffington Post that cited a new article claiming gay males are much more proportionately likely to have an eating disorder than straight males. This is a pretty expected result but when thinking about reasons why this is so, it’s especially disappointing.

In popular culture, the gay male persona falls into one of two groups. First, you have the standard or stereotypical pretty, thin or fit. In the other group, you have everyone else. Most gay men I know fall into neither group but I’m willing to bet most have had issues with body image at some point in their lives as they strive to fit into the thin and fit group, because that’s what represents us. Continue reading

Ed Sheeran – X

Ed Sheeran - X

Fame can be a difficult thing to experience when you’re someone as humble and introverted as Ed Sheeran seems to be. His first album + evoked the type of introspection and naivety that gave him the charm ultimately leading to his worldwide success. But with that success came a loss of innocence and a new perspective that he captures on his second album X.

Ed’s rising status was inevitable given his gradual success over the last three years. It was a given that his sophomore record would be an instant hit. With it sitting at #1 in several countries around the world, Ed is arguably the biggest solo male artist out right now. Continue reading

Soundtrack – The Fault In Our Stars

If you’re in your 30′s today, you can probably think of at least one movie soundtrack from the 1990′s you consider to be especially important to your teenaged self.

Back in those days, soundtracks were as important as the movies they accompanied and served as a sort-of mix-tape, a compilation of songs by a selection of present-day artists that told a story, helped emphasize an event, or just build some sort of personal emotional connection around. Continue reading

Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour

Sam Smith is quickly becoming the internet’s latest person of interest as his album In The Lonely Hour soars to #1 on both sides of the Atlantic and videos of his performances and covers surface, showing off his tremendous vocal abilities. A recent clip of his version of Whitney Houston‘s How Will I Know is currently making the rounds, serving as an excellent supplement to his own material while showing that his talents aren’t the work of in-studio manipulation.

With his skill and British background, it’s only natural that he get compared to Adele, who also gained fame at nearly the same age. Like her album 21, In The Lonely Hour is a soulful album about heartache, but where Adele sang about the experience of an 18-month long relationship, Sam sings from a less-knowledgeable perspective, about a one-night stand with someone who is already taken. Continue reading

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