Mike Rosenberg, also known as Passenger, quickly rose to fame from the sunny, misty shores of Brighton, England and has certainly formed his own sound. Getting his start in the early 2000s in several bands before becoming a solo act, he took to busking the streets of England and Australia to gain buzz. Gaining notoriety after playing some festivals and gigs in Australia, Rosenberg released his solo debut, Wide Eyes Blind Love, in 2009. This was followed by Divers and Submarines in 2010, which set the stage for his third LP, Flight of the Crow, which arrived in the same year.
2012 became his year with the release of All the Little Lights, through Nettwerk Records, skyrocketing him to fame with his hit single “Let Her Go,” which topped the charts in 19 countries. Gaining further notoriety by opening for Jools Holland and Ed Sheeran, 2014-2015 proved fruitful with a cluster of songs split into two albums, Whispers I and Whispers II, proving Rosenberg a prolific songwriter.
This pattern continued from 2016-2018 with Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea (2016), The Boy Who Cried Wolf (2017) and Runaway (2018). In recent years, taking a more orchestral approach to instrumentation, he recorded 2019’s Sometimes It’s Something, Sometimes It’s Nothing at All with all strings. In his first work of 2020, he called upon producer and friend Chris Vallejo to record Patchwork in July and has continued to work with him on Rosenberg’s newest and most heartbreakingly sincere album, A Song for the Drunk and the Broken Hearted, which arrived Friday, January 8, 2021, thanks to Nettwerk Records.
As a philanthropic and thoughtful artist, Rosenberg has hit an inspired level of heartbreak while developing a new way in which to find light in the darkness. Apropos of this, his opening track, “Sword From the Stone,” is a metaphorical hug that sounds like catching up with an old flame, and admitting the ins and outs of emotional recovery from romantic trauma. Rosenberg’s raspy and comforting voice seems to call for no ill will and the accompaniment plays true to the temperament, with soft piano and guitar.
Head-bopper “Tip of My Tongue” plays similar to that of a Folk track of the 1970s with a little Pop mixed in; remnants of a soft and easy feeling like the good old days are coming back around. Subsequent track “What You’re Waiting For” has more of a poppy, danceable feel, talking of the glass half-empty attitude, and creating a track full of beautiful irony. Single “The Way That I Love You” immediately inspires thoughts of Jim Croce’s “Operator,” and this suits singer-songwriter Rosenberg perfectly, what with his similar melodic movement and melancholy charm.
Following suit, “Remember to Forget” takes the banjo/John Mayer sound to talk of a night full of one night stands to rid past romantic memories. Adding brass, Rosenberg continues to include instrumental variety, weaving a deeper pattern of musical detailing as “Sandstorm” creates a deeper and darker part of the emotional recovery; desolate and destitute in thought. Most recent single, the titular “A Song for the Drunk and the Broken Hearted,” is another fun time of a danceable hit, one that playfully talks of recovery among all spectrums as well as problems that can cause addiction and sadness.
“Suzanne” seems to be the subject of this recovery, and instrumentally it’s just Rosenberg and his guitar; a pouring of his soul post breakup, hoping she finds happiness but searching for his own internal resolution. Ninth track “Nothing Aches Like a Broken Heart” continues the road to resolution, offering melancholic upbeat orchestration while “London in the Spring” is a pretty ballad of visual splendor, walking through the streets of idyllic London. It teaches the lesson of learning to appreciate the little things when times are tough—a lesson extremely relevant at the current moment. A powerful ending to an album of melodic storytelling…or is it?
Passenger continues to wow with full acoustic versions of every track, going backwards in order, as if he wants us to see the album in a different way. Maybe it is a message that there can be light from the darkness or that the cycle of romantic endeavors can always find resolutions. Just as heartache can be raw, Passengers’ acoustic versions of each song cut a little deeper, creating that air of surmounted melancholy and vulnerability.
The continuity of this record surpasses the qualifications of a musical storyteller, creating depth from beginning to end, even by turning the first half of the tracks into acoustic versions. Based on his own breakup, Rosenberg truly wears his heart on his sleeve and sweeps listeners off our feet. He is clearly modern music’s Jim Croce, and we need more talented singer-songwriters like him in the world. As such, Cryptic Rock gives Passenger’s A Song for the Drunk and the Broken Hearted 4.5 out of 5 stars.