Review Summary: Busking has never sounded so good.
Music has the capability to facilitate human emotions. Be it cathartic, hate-filled anger, tear-jerking sorrow or anything in between you can bet that sometime, somewhere, aspiring musicians have composed pieces of music to elucidate their feelings. Perhaps the most over-used sentiment in modern music is that of the yearning heartache, bastardised by singer-songwriters the world over. To create a truly memorable emotive album is a difficult task indeed, but one not above 26 year old Mike Rosenberg and his one-man project Passenger. Funded entirely through busking across the streets of Australia, Passenger’s third full-length release Flight of the Crow
achieves a comprehensible intimacy throughout its eleven tracks and successfully navigates away from the cliché-packed conventions that are so commonly used.
Like an English Damien Rice, Rosenberg bares his soul in a wonderfully personal selection of songs. From delicately arranged heartbreakers to earnest up-tempo jingles, make up the majority of tracks here, and all with an intimacy and poise that belies his age. Distinctly personal touches saturate the music, increasing the emotional potency throughout. Rosenberg’s distinctive lisp, a recurring feature throughout the record, is perhaps the most subjective, but its infuriatingly annoying nature subsides after a few playbacks and progresses the aura of intimacy created through the gently finger-strummed acoustic guitar accompaniment. Add to this some cute effusive lyrics and the occasional expanse of classical backing instrumentation and the base elements that make up Flight of the Crow
The best part of the album however is neither the fluidity of the compositions nor Rosenberg’s instrumental prowess but rather the frequent guest spots that prevent any traces of stagnation appearing. This collaborative spirit enables Rosenberg to harmonise with some of Australia’s premiere vocalists and adds yet another feature to the tracks. Artists as well-known and diverse as Boy & Bear, Josh Pyke and Jess Chalker all offer their own distinctive sound to tracks yet the overriding themes stay the same, keeping each track consistent with the album as a whole. Particular highlights include Pyke’s contribution on What You’re Thinking
and ex-Pop-Idol star Matt Corby’s ethereal verses in Golden Thread
. Both songs highlight different strengths in Rosenberg’s compositions, and yet manage to sound effortlessly similar, keeping with the coherency of the record. Given these strengths, it’s surprising then that by far the best track on the album is the only one that manages to transcend its contemporaries by feeling different to the rest. Katie Noonan’s effortlessly haunting contribution to Bloodstains
complements Rosenberg’s more down-to-earth vocal styling fiercely, resulting in an uneasily sombre track.
Sombreness is all well and good, but where Flight of the Crow
falls short is in its lack of bite. No-one’s expecting a highly distorted, balls-to-the-floor rocker, indeed such a track would take much of the realism out of the record, but Flight of the Crow
could do with some more originality. As an album it doesn’t push boundaries, instead steering well within the confines of safety that is the indie-folk genre which is a shame, because it’s obvious that Rosenberg is both talented and imaginative enough to spice up his works with a little experimentation. Despite this it is some damn good indie-folk and, lisp aside, offers an insightful glimpse into the journeyman workings of one of the most underappreciated singer-songwriters in Britain. It’s one thing to substitute vain musical competencies for emotional sentiments but it’s quite another to portray it as effectively and consistently as Passenger has managed on Flight of the Crow
, and for trying, let alone succeeding, Mike Rosenberg and company deserve substantial praise.
Overall 4.0 Excellent