It was one of these ‘interesting, tell me more’ experiences that got me looking into the British gig Passenger. Since the official breakup of the band in 2009, Mike Rosenberg basically manages the outfit, together with a few studio musicians.
Little chipmunk voice seemingly coming from the Master of Nerds, letting off steam over everyday issues. Sometimes of the trivial kind, sometimes with a little more substance, but not really getting up to speed with his music. Right?
Not so fast!
Passenger‘s fourth 2012 studio album All The Little Lights is laid back. Quiet Folk Rock or simply Folk, with some Pop. This quality continued in the follow-on album Whispers that may be even more thoughtful.
It was actually the main track Let her Go that really got my attention in the beginning. I stumbled across it, when hunting for something else (totally different, in fact) on YouTube.
And no doubt about it: This song won and continues to win best single awards right thru 2014 when I am writing this review.
And the success of All the Little Lights is remarkable. It positioned itself at rank #1 or very near it in quite a few of the billboard charts across the English speaking countries. But also in areas of the world, where English is well spoken and understood.
Passenger dearly likes to tell stories. Of felt or lived events in his or somebody else’s life. Or what he had seen or done. Clearly some of that stuff is kind of silly, with too much drama and tearful whining. Whereas other tracks are quite touching, soulful and straight to the point. But then this is the creative right of an artist.
All in all, however, the quality of the tracks is very good. Some of the tunes beautifully crafted. I was impressed by the way the songs are structured to get the message across. And for every one of them there is a different directional approach, style and instruments employed. From acoustic to pop to folk rock, Passenger use everything.
This evokes big names. Like Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen, the likes of Simon & Garfunkel (or perhaps simply Paul Simon). Or then again Elton John in his earlier years, when the quality of his songs was still much better than today. And for sure, Passenger has a lot of air still to grow.
And what about the tracks themselves?
Noteworthy are All the Little Lights (the song), followed by The Wrong Direction. The acoustic pieces Circles and Life’s for the Living are adorable in this kind of nerdy way all the tunes are presented.
The top track – of course – is Let Her Go. This one really cuts deep and does sound .. familiar. Hmm! This is Folk Rock at its best.
As usual, Passenger hid some ugly in the good. And this is the very last track I Hate (pun intended). Well, this one sucks big time. Worse than fillers that listeners are usually confronted with. Self glorification does not get us anywhere. Jeez.
However and finally, All The Little Lights is a very good record made by a clearly gifted song maker. You need to listen to some of these songs a few times to really get the message.
And – indeed – the value of this album is not necessarily in the tunes themselves, but very much in the texts employed. Enjoy!