By Rachel Cho
Released Friday June 6th, 2014 - Black Crow Records
Since the release of the lead single track 'Hearts On Fire' in April, a quiet anticipation for Passenger's fifth studio album had followed. The album was released through Black Crow Records and Nettwerk. The folk-rock artist who goes by Michael Rosenberg offstage, indulges his talents of storytelling in the form of this laconic record 'Whispers'.
The whole album is a journey of large and telling cinematic stories of love, heartbreak, '27 years' of his life, loneliness and death. These profound encounters with the theatricals of human existence, are delivered in such a laconic and low-key way, in the form of the gentle rasp in his voice and the melodic classical guitar. It is reminiscent of residual whispers of a sentient lifetime. It is one big story, even illustrated through the album artwork that conjures a children's storybook to mind. The album fluctuates in mood, travelling from the adventurous 'Bullets' to the sombre 'Golden Leaves' and then 'Thunder'that picks you up and off your feet from the previous track. We don't linger in the sombre for too long, nor is our time flying high in uppity cheer prolonged.
The lead single 'Hearts On Fire' is delivered in a voice that resembles the slightest sense of gentle resignation, as Rosenberg juxtaposes dramatic language "..my heart's on fire" with his contrastingly soft yet raspy voice, complemented by the instrumental counterparts of equal tenderness. It almost serves as a microcosm for the entire record, in that the record is a soft delivery of the theatrical spectacle that is life's tale. It tugs at nostalgia which most of us are familiar with; a kind of aching longing to go back to a moment in time. However, along with the subsequent tracks, this album paints strokes of nostalgia in a way that is celebratory and embracing.
After taking us on his journey through profound moments of love, tragedy and meeting a fellow human on the verge of death in 'Riding To New York', Rosenberg ends the album with the telling 'Scare Away The Dark'. Comprised of relatively micro-level encounters, the words are day-to-day and widely understood as he bemoans our fixation with Facebook & Twitter and wishing to be "happier, thinner and fitter." He celebrates the ultimate nostalgia; that of living fearlessly and relentlessly, as he tells us to "sing at the top of your voice/ Love without fear in your heart." The album showcases his storytelling talents, his theatrical tale. The lyrics conjure the words of Charles Bukowski to "live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us" as the record indeed whispers an echo of this very sentiment.
Overall, the album resembles a canvas carrying a grand story, painted in tender strokes of subtlety and geniality. It further extends the already substantial success of Passenger, and we know that his prevalence in music is of no mere whim, but a concrete presence that puts us in quiet anticipation for his next project.
4/5 / 5