The Racer – Passengers
Release Date: November 11, 2012
Record Label: Unsigned
Formerly known as Stuedabakerbrown, New York’s The Racer should be bigger. Their debut album, Strangers We Will Become, from 2010, garnered positive reviews as well as spawned singles like “Boy and Arrow” and “Couch-Sitting Rattlesnake,” not to mention play on various MTV shows. Their newest release, Passengers, is full of could-be hits.
Passengers is something of a concept album, about overcoming a loved one’s hypothetical death. Musically speaking, this album reminds me of Jimmy Eat World or perhaps a less pop-oriented Cartel. It begins with “Passengers (Intro),” which is aptly titled, really serving only as an introduction to the record and featuring lyrics from the album’s closer “Passengers.” From the start though, it’s evident that Pete Marotta’s vocals are good, if perhaps somewhat reminiscent of Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman.
The first actual song is “Impact,” which introduces the whole concept behind the record: “Everything must end/ but how could you?/ No one can escape/ the final cue.” About two minutes into the song Marotta’s vocals take the stage over atmospheric tones and a soft acoustic guitar. The next standout is “Settle,” which begins with soft piano. The chorus really makes the song though; it genuine sounds like it could be played on the radio. Unfortunately, “The Fire” follows and is probably the most boring song on the whole album. The Racer tried to go atmospheric and experimental, but it just didn’t work out there. Luckily, “Celebrate” comes after “The Fire,” picks up any lost momentum, and adds some. The catchiest track on the album, and for sure one of the best, I dare you to listen and not shout out, “We were lied to/ hell we make/ celebrate you/ either way.” What I said about “Impact” as a good radio single? Here’s your top ten rock song. It even has a cool instrumental bridge courtesy of Mike Esserman and Steve Kondracki.
Side B kicks off with “Lost. Love. Art.” This is another experimental-ish song, slightly faster than “The Fire,” and has an extremely apparent electronic influence. The bridge relies heavily on the electronics, moreso than the rest of the song, and almost seems out of place. Track ten, “September,” shows that the Racer can write a god ballad. Indeed, a good ballad. It is a slow song kept together mostly by Mike Perri’s rhythmic drumming. Despite the slower tempo the track still features the band’s signature infectious chorus, as well as my favorite lyric on the whole of Passengers: “We’ll be singing ‘Jungleland’ up to the moon.” (+10 points to any band that can throw in a Springsteen reference without sounding awkward or forced.)
The album ends with the five-and-a-half-minute title track, which begins with the same music and lyrics as the first song. The track’s refrain sounds like something from a Narrow Stairs-era DCFC song. The last minute or so includes lyrics from the previous tracks, something I’ve always thought was cool. Passengers (the song and the album) ends with a group of people singing “The moments I shared/ in the presence of you/ I will miss” over a piano melody. In essence, Passengers is a pop-rock album. But not like a Summer Set or Maine or Mayday Parade pop-rock album, there is certainly a rock edge, and it’s done well. It’s not pop-rock to be ashamed of.