This week sees the launch of the tenth studio album from Passenger (aka Mike Rosenberg), entitled Runaway.
The English singer-songwriter, in collaboration with producer Chris Vallejo, created this latest release with the inspiration of an Americana tinge. Some tracks are directly influenced by places and ideas from North America while others more loosely reflect the theme.
Rosenberg explains that in his youth he would often visit America, his father's home country. "I always loved it. I guess I was seduced by it a little bit".
Inspired by his travels as a child and now a touring artist, the singer-songwriter describes how he created the songs of Runaway with the background images of American landscapes shaping their evolution. Following this thought, instead of traditional music videos he and his video director took a road trip across the USA filming videos against the American backdrops he had pictured during the writing process.
Opening track "Hell or High Water" explores a relationship breakdown and all the questions, second guessing and introspective reflection that typically follow.
Was it the trick of the light? Or a shot in the dark?
Was it hell or high water that broke our hearts?
Was it something you said? Or just a cruel twist of fate?
Was it hell or high water and is it too late?
Take these all too relatable lyrics, a catchy pop melody and add the sweeping landscapes of a series of American national parks and you have the film clip to an excellent opening single.
Ten albums in and we all know that Rosenberg has established a particular sound from which Passenger songs never really stray too far. Runaway does not differ and those characteristically gentle yet catchy riffs that we have come to expect of Passenger are in abundance through the record.
Fourth track "Let's Go" opens with a quietly energetic lolling tune in 3/4 time. You can picture the twinkle in the singer's eye as he sings along to this totally danceable melody -
If life is a journey, love is a signpost, freedom's a fork in the road
- lyrics that are just so... Passenger. The grooving backing tune continues right through to the instrumental outro, marking this as one of the most upbeat numbers of the album.
"Ghost Town" is inspired by the downfall of the motor industry of Detroit and its effect on a city where businesses used to flourish yet now comprises all too many empty spaces and abandoned businesses, which are reflected in the scarce backing music of this track.
"He leaves you cold" is a contemplation of dissatisfied relationships, with frustration and criticism bundled into seemingly sweet phrases like
He leaves an ice cube in your heart and a snowflake in your soul.
The final track "Survivors" might be my favourite. From the opening pondering
Life is just a game no one ever tells you how to play
to the gently driving staccato beats from the strings that lead into the chorus, it's catchy, thoughtful and a sure hit.
Passenger is a divisive artist. He knows his strengths and plays to them well, not venturing far from a well tested and well loved model, which some people will always love and by which others will never be won over. I'm in the former group. Runaway is safely congruent. I like it.
Runaway drops August 31st via Black Crow Records