Best tunes of 2012: #26 Passenger “Let her go”

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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.

Vinyl love: The Essex Green “Hardly electronic”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Essex Green
Album Title: Hardly electronic
Year released: 2018
Details: Limited edition, peak edition, red & orange swirl vinyl

The skinny: Last week, I wrote about how I discovered this Indie Rock trio from Brooklyn, New York, when I saw them open for Camera Obscura back in 2007. This here album, The Essex Green’s fourth, and their first in almost twelve years, was a bit of a surprise release back in 2018. Indeed, even after hearing a few tracks, it wasn’t on my radar to add to my vinyl collection but then, I saw it on the racks while perusing one of my favourite local record stores, Compact Music, and I just couldn’t help myself. This limited ‘Peak’ vinyl edition of “Hardly electronic” is lovely in orange and red translucent and hit my platter so often back in 2018 that it ended up on my top ten list for the year.

Standout track: “The 710”

Best tunes of 2012: #27 The Dandy Warhols “I am free”

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When The Dandy Warhols last graced these pages, it was September in 2017 and they were hitting up the number two spot on my Best tunes of 2000 list with the very, very excellent, “Bohemian like you”. I wrote in that post how I saw them live before I had properly become familiar with their music but was so enthused by their set that I purchased “Thirteen tales from urban bohemia” on CD a few years later, without first hearing a note. The rest was history, I suppose. I bought “Welcome to the monkey house” when it came out in 2003, watched the 2004 documentary “Dig!”, and went back to explore their 1990s output. It seemed to me that I had found a new favourite band – I’ve had many over the years – but then, the Dandies went through a period where their excesses were allowed to overflow their bubbling cauldron. I couldn’t get into their 2005 album, “Odditorium or warlords of mars”, at all, and ditto for its successor, 2008’s “…Earth to the Dandy Warhols…”. I moved on.

The Portland, Oregon based alternative rock quartet were relatively quiet for the next bunch of years, their only musical releases being an alternate version of “Monkey house” (called “The Dandy Warhols are sound”) that came out in 2009 and ‘best of’ compilation released by their old label just before they parted ways with them in 2010. There were murmurs of a new album in 2011 when frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor joked about potential album titles while on tour. However, when “This machine” was finally launched in the spring of 2012, it came upon me as a surprise. Being the forgiving sort that I am, I gave it a spin and it ended up being featured on my old blog, Music Insanity, as one of my favourite releases of the month.

For this album, The Dandy Warhols opted for a simpler, ‘stripped down’ approach and for me, it felt a lot less excessive and a lot more palatable. “I am free”, for example, contrives to sneak up to some of their early singles and rival them in the ear worm category. The jumping and reverberating guitar line by Peter Holmström deserves a true guitar rock god stance, legs spread wide and axe held aloft. Brent De Boer pounds the drums and Zia McCabe holds the bass line steady and true. Taylor-Taylor, of course, fronts it all with his usual tongue in cheek attitude, his laidback, slacking delivery giving it just the right vibe. And when the horns kick in at the end, it doesn’t even feel like they’re crowding themselves into an already packed room. It feels effortless and easy.

Yeah. “I am free” is easily my favourite song on the album but it is by no means the only good track. To me, it was like a comeback of sorts, a righting of the ship, a beginning of a new course that followed the band through the string of their next bunch of albums.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.