Passenger is a new pop band from Brighton, England. That their debut, Wicked Man’s Rest, got the usual comparators—James Blunt, David Gray—merely attests to the completely familiar musical language of the band. Acoustic guitars, easy-listening synths, you know the drill. That’s not to say these songs don’t have their charms. There’s a reason why strings artfully employed in a chorus continue to be used and re-used; they do imbue that certain floating feeling. But Mike Rosenberg’s delivery is a little problematic. It’s quite androgynous, high and thin, and cracks at the end of lines in that classic “I’m-demonstrating-emotion” way of pop music. When the band’s more upbeat, it’s more successful. “I’m the boy with social disorders”, Rosenberg sings on “Night Vision Binoculoars”, and the chugging pop ballad holds complete attention. There are a few other highlights, where the group manages to twist the usual pop formula with interesting verses that chug forward (“Do What You Like”) or hold enticingly back (“For You”). But this otherwise homogenous debut won’t ripple too many waters, likely, over here.
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