In a whirlwind of #petan, selfies and strange Twitter status’s, George Ezra spun into 2014 like the Tasmanian Devil, encased in a blonde, smiley 21 year old’s body with the voice of a husky pensioner. In his chilled, modest manner, the Bristolian came from numerous pub gigs from when he was a young teenager to landing a number 4 in the UK charts, his name being rolled off the tongue of every influential radio presenter and his songs plastered on every music blog. Though he told me himself he’s not nervous about releasing his debut album, ‘Wanted on Voyage’ – just a little sad that it’s no longer just his – there’s a lot resting on his first ever record. It could either be the cherry on top of the beautifully topped cake – or the foot that stamps through the otherwise immaculate sandcastle.
Luckily, George has nothing to worry about. This album has triumphantly slam-dunked.
The title, referring to his time inter-railing around Europe, is pretty apt for the number of travel inspired songs: ‘Budapest‘, ‘Cassy O’‘ and ‘Barcelona‘, to name a few. There’s also themes of young love, desire and friendship. It’s a warm, comforting combination of stories, each told in their own poetic, compelling and sometimes humorous way, sucking the listener in to George’s fanciful tales. It’s these youthful narratives braided with George’s weathered, gravelly voice, a voice that is way beyond his years which makes his album already so distinct.
But it’s not just distinct. It’s also bloody good – it’s a completely different pop of colour from the electronic-dominated musical spectrum of this year. It seems George has tucked himself away in a cavernous hole deep in Siberia away from the influences of modern British music – and this is exactly what takes the album from good, to brilliant.
There’s a bunch of really, really strong tracks. The heavy, nitty-gritty Did You Hear the Rain? commandeers, holding its flag up while trotting at the forefront, shortly followed by the happy-go-lucky Budapest, the choir-packed, melodic Leaving it Up To You and the emotive beginning of the album, Blame it on Me. A showcase of George’s incredibly deep vocals come in the form of ‘Spectacular Rival‘, a whirling, haunting, dark track with heavy drums, a chugging bass and an unnerving violin riff.
There’s no anthemic, Avicii produced dance track to appeal to today’s young audience (yes, Coldplay, I’m looking at you). Neither is there a try-hard track which sounds exactly like a song off the last Alt-J album. George has walked out of the norm of 2014 popular music and strolled over to the opposite podium, hands on his hips and beaming like a proud Cheshire cat… Yet somehow, he’s made his music exactly what his music isn’t: popular. It’s so appealing to mainstream audiences.
Frayed at the edges like 90s denim, ‘Wanted on Voyage’ has a raw fringe, the elements of production and recording sometimes kept in. This doesn’t mean it’s unfinished, the record is just simply brilliantly imperfect. It’s way more personal, down to earth and empathetic. Again, it’s just another element of the record which is unlike any other album at the moment.
There’s the deliberate flaws, the unique, husky voice, a bunch of endearing stories with an A-Z scale of instruments and George Ezra has done it: he’s has tugged the bluesy/folksy sounds deep out of the ground, brushed away the soil and given it a new coat of paint to make it better than new.
Pre-order the deluxe version of the album HERE.
Listen to an online stream HERE.
‘Wanted on Voyage’ will be released by Sony Music on 30th June.
The songs are even better live – catch him at the following festivals: Glastonbury, T in the Park, Longitude, Boardmasters and V Festival.
Listen to my hilarious interview with George HERE.