Passenger – Tickets – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC – March 8th, 2017
The Paper Kites
Doors: 7:00 pm9:30 Club
A lot has happened since Mike Rosenberg, the British singer-songwriter who records and performs as Passenger, signed to IE Music aged just 17. Having originally emerged fronting a band, his re-invention as a solo performer began with years of busking, largely in Australia. Then came a number of shows supporting Ed Sheeran. And then, in “Let Her Go,” came a tune that topped charts in 20 countries around the world. Those who know only that single, which won an Ivor Novello and clocked up 1 Billion YouTube views, might be surprised to hear that there have also been seven albums, less ubiquitous but no less acclaimed, from Wicked Man’s Rest (2007) to Whispers (2014) and Whispers II (2015).
Passenger’s eighth album, Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea, is a record of continuity but also of change. The exquisite songcraft and the distinctive delivery remain as before, because Rosenberg himself remains as before: thoroughly down to earth, responding to the size and scale of “Let Her Go” with the mix of genuine humility and self-deprecating humor so evident in his onstage performances. (“’How amazing, in a lifetime, to have a song that’s got this big,’” he told Reuters at the Ivor Novellos. “‘I’m so happy. That’s a story to tell my grandkids. You know, I was number one in Luxembourg.’”)
What has changed? While recent albums have been recorded in Sydney, Young as the Morning, Old As The Sea was recorded at Neil Finn’s Roundhead studio in New Zealand, inspired by the epic landscapes in that country and in Iceland, the location for the accompanying videos and photos. Lyrically, too, the album is newly panoramic. The stories, both individual and universal, of relationships and the passing of time, are still there, for instance on tracks like “When We Were Young,” “Everything” and “Somebody’s Love.” Yet they are joined, this time, by widescreen landscapes: Finnish forests, Norwegian lakes, Scottish highlands and the Italian coastline.
Musically, the sound has filled out too. Young as the Morning… is again a co-production with Chris Vallejo (INXS, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Empire of the Sun), in whose Sydney studio most recent Passenger material has been recorded. For this album, however, the pair were joined by a group of live musicians who also perform with Australian indie-folk duo Angus and Julia Stone.
“Chris and I agreed to step it up for this new record,” says Rosenberg. “We brought in some great musicians – I had met and jammed with them at a few festivals, and we got on really well. We also did pre-production for the first time: we all got together for a week in Sydney a month or so before recording the album. It meant the guys had a chance to digest the songs and we had a chance to really get to know one other. So the recording process, which can end up feeling quite pressured, felt very relaxed.”
The sense of taking time is reflected in the finished album, which captures the growing confidence of Rosenberg and Vallejo as a production partnership. The involvement of fellow musicians from an early stage, meanwhile, has resulted in the kind of fuller arrangements and big sound that does justice to the epic lyrical themes.
“I’ve done pretty much an album a year for the last decade,” says Rosenberg, “and the worry is that you don’t live with things for long enough. This time we’ve culled from 16 tracks to 10. I know the most recent record is probably always my favorite, but I honestly feel this is the first time I can play the new record to people and not feel obliged to make excuses. I’m so proud of it.”
*Mike Rosenberg began working as Passenger in 2003, initially with fellow musicians and subsequently as a solo artist. Prior to Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea, he has released Wicked Man’s Rest (2007), Wide Eyes Blind Love (2009), Flight of the Crow (2010), Divers and Submarines (2010), All the Little Lights (2012), Whispers (2014) and Whispers II (2015). He lives in Brighton and still busks when he can.
The Paper Kites
“It was wild to write until you are so tired that nothing sounded too over-worked – songs didn't feel restricted by a commonly analytical brain. This record is the sound of five people trying to make something they're proud of... And we really are.”
Pre-dawn lyrics and lush, late night melodies: twelvefour is the gorgeous second album from Melbourne five-piece THE PAPER KITES. It’s been four years since the quintet first formed and turned heads with EP Woodland (followed up by 2013’s Young North) – and quickly became one of Australia’s best-loved live acts, particularly with the release of their acclaimed 2013 LP, States. That record delivered favourites such as “St Clarity,” “A Lesson From Mr Gray” and Young” reaching #17 on Australia’s ARIA Album chart.
It’s not just here at home that the bands profile has been building – with over 150,000 Facebook fans, and with a whopping 20 million views and counting on YouTube, the band have toured across North America under the invite of City And Colour (aka Dallas Green), plus enjoyed a string of sold out international headline dates of their own. Their Australian tours have seen the band play venues such as Sydney’s Enmore Theatre and Melbourne’s Forum and Athenaeum Theatre.
Now, the Melbourne band – Sam Bentley, Christina Lacy, David Powys, Josh Bentley and Sam Rasmussen – are back, with an effortless, sprawling listen that explores new terrain to unveil their best work yet.
“The album is a concept record, based around a theory that an artist's creative peak is between the hours of midnight and 4am,” explains front man Sam Bentley, who’d been searching for a theme to shape album #2. A passing comment from a friend back in August 2014 delivered the spark. “That idea turned into the heart of the project, so every night I'd sit down when the clock ticked over to midnight and just start writing.”
For two sleepless months Sam worked, reversing his sleep patterns and penning 30 songs in his home studio. “I got to the end and thought, I'm never doing that again,” Sam laughs. Lyrically, twelvefour isn’t about some sort of somnambulist or insomniac blues, however. “You’re always more melancholy during those hours,” Sam points out, “but if I could sum up the album it’s about what happens when selfishness and love collide.”
Take the title refrain of the golden, harmonica-laden “I’m Lying To You ‘Cause I’m Lost,” or album opener and first single “Electric Indigo,” with its plea for redemption: “But you’ve been waiting long enough to let it go / I’ll do you right / ‘Cause time is just a remedy / Covered in disguise”. (Be sure to check out the video for ‘Electric Indigo’, starring actress Laura Brent – The Chronicles Of Narnia, A Few Best Men.)
“Neon Crimson” is one of Sam’s favourites, embodying the album’s spirit. “Late-night isolation, a confession, an apology... The album as a whole is an open letter. Words and melodies written very late at night to attempt to understand the heaviest of choices, which is choosing someone else or yourself,” says Sam.
Determined to capture a bigger, bolder sound, the group travelled to Seattle to record in February 2015 with Grammy-nominated producer Phil Ek (Father John Misty, Manchester Orchestra, Fleet Foxes, The Shins). twelvefour is lush and intimate: think drum machines, dirtier guitars (“very much an ‘80s twinge,” Sam insists) mixed with soulful, smooth synth moments – see closer “Too Late. Plentiful late-night vibes.
Recording in the Pacific Northwest was a joy. The band took up camp in the hip suburb of Ballad for six weeks, while Ek encouraged them to push themselves. “Phil was someone we'd always wanted to work with, but I know he turns a lot of bands down,” says Sam. “We thought it wasn't necessarily worth asking.”
“The great thing about working with Phil was that you couldn’t fake it – he wanted to hear the real thing,” Sam continues, recalling a day the producer chided him after a vocal take. “He was really honest with us, sometimes brutally, but all in the interest of making a better record. He made a real point about letting things be how they sounded like they wanted to be.”
A visit to the studio of Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) was like being let loose in a gear candy shop, while blood and sweat literally made its way onto the record when bassist/keyboardist Rasmussen cut his hand while laying down “Turns Within Me, Turns Without Me.” “He cut his hand open playing these weird keys that were attached to cymbals he was slamming together… all which ended up on take we used.” Track “Revelator Eyes” shows off Lacy’s harmonies, in what Sam describes as “kind of fast, still very lush, kind of sexy” vibe. “She really loved that song, we were both pushing for it to be on the record.”
Returning home in April, the record was finally done. Fans can also look forward to a special documentary about the making of twelvefour, filmmaker Matthew Cox capturing the entire recording process in all its glory, warts and all: “it’s not all sunshine and rainbows”.
The resulting album is a startling document to a band truly growing into their own: surefooted and focussed. “As always I hope that the people who listen to our music continue to go along with us. We're really excited to be taking these songs on the road, and bringing everyone up to speed with where we've been.”
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001