Passenger first came on to my radar back in the good year of 2012, when I saw Ed Sheeran perform in a tiny venue in Paris for my 14th birthday. So, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the then-unknown artist who got up on that stage and performed honest and heartbreaking folk-style songs.
And it's great to see that since that day, with his newly released album, Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted, Passenger (aka Mike Rosenberg) still has that signature style to him, only much more evolved - which is exactly what you'd want to see 9 years later.
Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted was due to be released last year but got pushed back for obvious reasons, and was then further developed through the COVID-19 lockdown. This really does have the feel of being a lockdown album, much like Taylor Swift's folklore and evermore. Maybe it'll become a new genre of music - made in the pandemic.
There's a certain charm to Passenger's music that's difficult to explain. It's warm and homely, and his new album perfectly expresses that. It feels familiar, yet not so familiar that you feel like you've heard it before. Really, the best way to describe his sound is comforting.
However, this is not a happy album. It is, in every aspect, a break-up album. True to the classic folk tradition, these songs tell seemingly fictional tales about love and heartbreak, but with the way they're written, it's hard to believe that these raw feelings are completely made up.
For the purposes of this review, only the basic album will be discussed, but it's worth mentioning that not only are there acoustic versions of every track on the album but there's also a series of music videos to go with it too. They're well worth a watch if you want a visual experience as well as an auditory one.
Throughout Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted, Passenger keeps his signature folky sound but with a more modern and experimental edge to it.
His signature gritty vocals amongst the melancholy lyrics and dulcet tones go together like old friends meeting for a reunion. I would say that it's the unique vocals that actually save this album a bit, as I feel if the vocals were as melancholy as the lyrics it wouldn't be nearly as interesting to listen to.
The tracks range from slow 5-minute ballads to relatively upbeat short and snappy tunes that almost convince you the subject matter is happy until you take a deep dive into the meaning of the lyrics.
Highlights of the album include 'Sandstorm' and 'What You're Waiting For' which are at complete opposite ends of the gloomy/upbeat spectrum. Sandstorm is a metaphorical tale about being swept away by love to a lowkey acoustic guitar, but it's much more dimensional than it may sound initially. 'What You're Waiting For' on the other hand is a much more seemingly upbeat song, which actually tells the story of not feeling good enough for a lover who always seems to be looking elsewhere. It sound's depressing but the song will have you tapping your foot along in no time.
You can tell that Passenger is first and foremost a songwriter, and this shows in his incredible storytelling ability. The whole album feels like one long novel, but still, each track feels like a short story of its own.