Passenger broke out seemingly from nowhere with 2012’s ‘Let Her Go’; with it’s gentle hand-picked guitar instrumentation, lilting vocals and quietly devastating lyrics, the song became a worldwide hit and made Passenger – real name: Michael Rosenberg – a household name. The song felt like a warm embrace and an instant source of comfort at a time of….well, at a time of relative stability and certainty compared to now.
The world in which ‘Let Her Go’ was released is a distinctly different and distant one to that which we live in today and the world of music has changed alongside the changing world: in the years since ‘Let Her Go’, popular music has become darker, more subdued and more introspective: it feels like an environment both foretold by, and unsuited to, Rosenberg.
What stands out then about ‘Songs For The Drunk and Broken Hearted’ is how comfortable it is to remain firmly in the same lane of Passenger’s earlier work: tracks like ‘Sandstorm’ and ‘Remember To Forget’ instantly recall the hay day of Rosenberg’s musical career. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however – after the life-altering year that was 2020, the instant familiarity of ‘Songs For The Drunk’ almost feels like a net-positive for the album.
‘Songs For The Drunk’ is 20 songs, and 1 hour 9 minutes, in length, but in reality, all the album highlights occur within the first half of the record: the second half of the album is all acoustic covers of the album’s first 10 songs – each is pleasant enough, but unnecessary considering how straightforward and stripped back these songs were to begin with.
At it’s best, ‘Songs For The Drunk’ is simultaneously uplifting and heart-breaking. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than on ‘Suzanne’. The cover art for this single depicts a forlorn, aging woman sitting alone in front of a glass of half-drunken wine and the song’s lyrics paint a desperately sad image of a woman who sleeps “all through the day”, whose life hasn’t panned out the way she hoped or expected, yet she still “shines bright” to the narrator. Such a haunting song about life’s disappointments couldn’t feel more apt at a time where most people’s lives have been turned upside down and, like all the best parts of this album, ‘Suzanne’ sounds like exactly what we need right now from music.
Passenger: ‘Songs For The Drunk and Broken Hearted’ // 2021 // Indie-Folk
Best tracks: Suzanne, A Song For The Drunk and Broken Hearted, Sword From The Stone