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Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, took an interesting and somewhat circuitous route to stardom. He formed a band with friend Andrew Philips in 2003 and called it, you guessed it, Passenger. Rosenberg and Philips were the only static members of the rotating group of musicians and the group only released one album in 2007 before disbanding in 2009. Rosenberg then embarked on a solo career, still using the Passenger name, that took him to Australia, away from his native homeland of England, and where, after plenty of touring and performing, he gained his first spate of popularity.
Still, things didn’t really get going for him until his fourth solo record, “All the little lights”, which was released in 2012 and on which he was backed by a band made up almost entirely of Australian musicians. It was this album’s second single, “Let her go”, that broke him in a country outside of Australia, charting first in Netherlands, then, slowly but surely spreading throughout Europe, and finally, hitting North America’s shores the following year. The song’s music video became a smash on YouTube, gathering more than 2 billion views, one of the most viewed clips on the platform. And this popularity translated to big time sales for the album, getting on year end charts for both 2013 and 2014, and achieving gold and platinum status in many countries.
I remember falling for it despite my best efforts to avoid doing so back in 2012. Indeed, it managed to place just outside my top ten favourite albums when I sat down to put together my year end list. I thought that it struck just the right balance of folk aesthetic and pop sensibility and Rosenberg’s backing band added some lush instrumentation to his busker friendly tunes. And though he’s quite the prolific guy, releasing a new album pretty much every year, I haven’t really paid much attention to him after this one album. I was actually quite surprised at how many videos he has on YouTube when I went looking for the one for this particular song.
I’m pretty certain you all know “Let her go”, even if not by name. It’s instantly recognizable from the get-go so just the first few seconds of the acoustic guitar plucking and matching keys will do the trick if it’s not one of your favourites. Rosenberg’s earnest vocals are front and centre throughout, all lonely and forlorn, easily heard even when he let’s her go and the drums kick in. His voice is all impassioned and fragile, singing about not knowing what you have, the love of life, whatever, until it is gone, long gone out the door. And it’s him, alone in a crowd, a big backing band, bass feels, backup singer, and a string quartet… because of course there is. And it’s him alone in front of a crowd, an adoring audience cheering him on, just him, sounding ready the break down into a massive puddle of tears. It grabs me by the proverbial feels every time.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.