Those who have heard his voice will be unlikely to forget it: Michael Rosenberg, who goes by the name of Passenger, sings in a style that is either endearing or irksome, depending on your point of view. His rasp is the texture of fine glasspaper, his vowels idiosyncratically enunciated. It has brought him some success: this is his 12th album as a solo artist (he also released one with the band from whom he took his name when they split up in 2009).
The epitome of the singer-songwriter, he sings intimate, lilting, staring-mournfully-into-the-middle-distance songs that tug at the heartstrings but are easy on the ear, as typified by his 2012 hit “Let Her Go”.
Though he hails from Brighton, his accent is something all his own: “Staye weeth mee thruuu the naight, until the morning laight, hilp me remember to forgait”, he pleads on “Remember to Forget”.
Instrumentation is pretty conventional: strummy acoustic guitar, drums, bass and piano, with splashes of warm brass, bright steel guitar, strings and mariachi trumpet (“Sandstorm”). Tempos are mostly mid-, though he picks up the pace a couple of times, as on the title track, a heartfelt paean to emotional castaways, and on “What You’re Waiting For”, with its jangly Smiths-style intro.
Lyrically he overindulges in platitudes: “Don’t try to love again too soon, rub salt in an open wound”, he advises on “Nothing Aches Like a Broken Heart”. On “Tip of My Tongue” he croons, “You only know you had it when it’s gone.” But there are some striking verbal flourishes, too: “With your red-wine teeth and your smoker’s cough” (“Suzanne”); “Sunshine pours like honey through the trees” (“London in the Spring”).
Though his voice is unmistakable, Passenger is doing nothing new. But in the midst of a long hard winter, there is something comforting about his sweet, sad, sentimental songs.
‘Songs for the Drunk and Broken-Hearted’ is released by Cooking Vinyl