In early July, singer-songwriter Passenger, known for his 2013 hit “Let Her Go,” released his new studio album titled “Patchwork.” Although this is his twelfth studio album, there is one major difference that “Patchwork” boasts: it was written and recorded almost entirely during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The album sets the tone from the beginning with “Sword in the Stone,” which immediately tells the listener that this is going to be a concept album about the pandemic. Just when you think that you have heard enough about it, the first song brings about the realization that we have survived a major historical event. Passenger sings about the pain and frustration we endured on the rollercoaster that was the early months of the pandemic. For many, this is still a reality. There is a sense of vulnerable honesty when he begins the song by asking how his “darling” is and then sharing the unbearably hard time he has been having.
“Year on Year, Day by Day” gives the listener a shoulder to lean on and the assurance that, in time, everything will be okay. Passenger walks the fine line between nihilism and stoicism near the end of the song, calling life a “comedy show” and how if you live longer than expected, the Queen gives you a medal. In the album’s titular track “Patchwork,” apart from the cozy melody that gives any lullaby a run for its money, the song is a love letter to the tenacity of humankind and the real-life superhero ability that is being able to move on. “Patchwork” encourages the listener to “look at everything we’ve built” and to, metaphorically, sew another square onto our quilt.
“Venice Canals” is one of those songs that makes you actually go and learn something. The track speaks to the numerous natural wonders that had returned during the quarantine. The stars of Beijing, the birds of Times Square and the fish in the Venice Canals. During the lockdown, the waters of the Venice Canals were clear enough to see the fish. Passenger speaks to a beautiful silver lining in the wake of the global chaos that began in March. He sings “don’t get me wrong, this ain’t no happy song,” meaning that the human world is still in ruins, but ironically, the natural world is flourishing when it was previously the other way around.
“Queenstown” is the track on the album most deserving of being a single, meaning it’s really good. If one looks deeper, under its comforting chord progressions and warm verses, you can see it’s not just about a good time in a town in New Zealand. This indie, playing-guitar-by-candlelight ballad is about the good memories with friends and family before we had to wear masks that hide our smiles, stay six feet apart, do away with hugs and put on hand sanitizer every time we go out. It’s the type of nostalgia that brings more sadness than euphoria.
“Swimming Upstream” is a very refreshing upbeat song, providing a little motivation boost for those who need it. This song is for those who feel like no matter how hard they try, life just does not seem to be leading them anywhere. He relates it to “swimming upstream and encourages listeners to keep swimming. “Somebody You Loved” is the only cover on the album, originally performed by Lewis Capaldi, but Passenger’s version does it just like you would expect him to: soft guitar picking, overlapping vocals and an artistic touch of electric guitar here and there.
The album ends with “Summer Rain,” which sums up the entire album in one song seemingly reinforcing the idea, in case the listener has not understood it yet. The pandemic was and continues to be horrible. It has caused massive financial suffering, moral debates, serious sickness, and in the worst cases, death.However, comfort can be found in the fact that it happened to everyone. In this divided time, if we can’t relate to each other on anything, at least we can share and understand each other’s pain.