Passenger – Whispers (2014) – Review

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Passenger - Whispers - Album Cover

After all that harder Metal stuff I reviewed lately, it is time to get to something a little softer and more reflective.

What better choice would there be than Passenger with their 2014 release and 6th studio album Whispers. Or more, Mike Rosenberg with his latest and best made with some studio musicians.

Similar in style (or kind of, at least) to its predecessor All the Little Lights, this record offers a much-improved variation. And – I daresay – a thoughtfulness that was not there before. But of course and as usual, the melodies are of lesser importance, as the focus is on the texts made by a master storyteller

Having written songs myself, I know how difficult it is to make everything rhyme. It takes time and many painful turns until you get there. Of course, it would help, if Rosenberg‘s voice would be a bit fuller. Not just that wheezy/breezy kind of whispers (no pun intended..). But then, this is also the allure of the music Passenger produce.

Whispers boasts real songwriting, folks, not just the use of some bullshit tools. Piecing together rave party junk, out of prefabricated bits and pieces coming from some sound studio Lalaland.

Do you know what really amazes me?

The acoustic tracks in the Deluxe Version are actually tastier than the ones in the main album. Nothing really new there, though. The same happened with other artists too. Like on Epica’s The Quantum Enigma, where the acoustics qualify better for the charts.

On the main album, I cannot be but reminded of Cat Stevens. And of Elton John in his age-old record Tumbleweed Connection (not all, for some of it only..).

What I am missing, though, is some depth in the discourse offered by the British lead. 

The tracks all come across as a bit flat. With clichés galore that were already used all over in former times. Admittedly, it is sometimes difficult to find original subjects. But it does kinda sound like beating a dead horse after a while. A bit like Taylor Swift – the eternal prom queen now turned Madonna – singing that coming to New York is such a great thing. Of course a totally different style, but missing depth nonetheless. 

Yet, Whispers is mostly a reflective album after all.

Perhaps a tad too much so, for most of today’s audiences. Delivered in some sort of a subdued and reserved style, but it seems to come from the heart. And sometimes you would like to shake the vocalist to come out of himself a bit more, and inject some more energy into the tune.

I miss the energy in Whispers that was so prevalent in former productions. It is as if – a bit like described in 27 – this is about aging. Mike Rosenberg now has a big #3 on his back. Something has pulled some sort of a rug from under his feet, it appears. And sucked up most of the energy.

But having said all that, Passenger delivers a pretty good production after all. But for sure Whispers does not have the reach of its 2012 predecessor. Just think of the superb folk ballad Let her go. Difficult to match that one. By and large, the album contains a jumble of super soft Folk songs that kind of blend into one another.

It could have been a bit louder for my taste!

To sum this up, the essence of Passenger‘s newest album is best described in Rosenberg‘s own words in the song Whispers: ‘You see all I need is a whisper, in a world that only shouts’.

All this is best consumed with a dram of whiskey in front of the fire. When the winter wind howls outside through a snowstorm. You need to be in somewhat of a melancholy mood for it, too. So, if you are in for some real quiet, soulful songwriting and open heart discourse, then this is your album to enjoy. As many fans so avidly do.

Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Nettwerk | Web: Official Site
Release date: 6 June 2014

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