Music

Whispers

Passenger

Released: 9 June 2014

Genre: Folk

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It's that difficult fifth album for over-several-nights sensation Mike Rosenberg.

Brighton singer-songwriter Rosenberg aka Passenger took a long time to make it in the business, but when he did he made it big. If 2012's All The Little Lights – his fourth album – was a huge hit, its single Let Her Go was even more enormous, shifting a million and becoming one of the UK's bestselling singles of all time. Not bad for a busker.

You can see how he does it. Whispers ticks all the right boxes for 21st century success, combining James Blunt-style tremulous ballads with folky Mumford & Sons zip and a patina of Damien Rice authenticity. When it all comes together – on the straight-up, petulant country gallop of 27, or the brooding string-led folk of Golden Leaves – it can be rousing and affecting in turn, but too often the whole exercise feels empty, even clichéd.

Rosenberg isn't the greatest lyricist, flooring us with Start A Fire's revelation that he was "born a baby boy a long time ago" and comparing himself to "a fish out of water" and "a lamb to the slaughter" on Thunder. It's the kind of thing that divests his weaker songs of any weight they might have had; weight that flimsy meditations like the title track sorely needed.

By the time he rounds the album off with Scare Away The Dark's mushy self-help mantras about loving "without fear in your heart", any spark's long gone. Lightning hasn't struck twice.

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06-06-2014