It’s becoming increasingly more cliche to comment on how wise beyond their years young musicians are because of the music they write. Maybe it’s become routine to underestimate artists who can write impressively witty, imaginative or reflective lyrics before the age of 24, or maybe we’ve become desensitized to it because of fun yet aggressively prominent pop music where lyrics aren’t the focus.
So while I’m saying so now, it goes without saying that George Ezra fits the bill. The first thing you notice about him is his deep gravelly voice – a sound you might expect to hear from the mouth of a 60 year old career veteran instead of a 21 year old newcomer on his first record.
Beyond this, Wanted On Voyage further plays on his perceived age as it contains influence from older generations of folk and rock music. Cassy O’s jangly guitar over a 2/2 beat captures the 60s folk rock sound and despite that era being decades before he was born, it’s the song that best showcases a distinctive personality. George’s confidence and ownership of the sound seeps out with the articulation of every word.
He has a comforting yet protective quality in the 1950s pop inspired Listen To The Man, as he sings “You don’t have to be there, babe/You don’t have to be scared, babe,” while he showcases the haunting texture of his voice in an a cappella before leading into the rustic grittiness of Did You Hear The Rain?
But not all of the record is immersed in past sounds. Stand By Your Gun is modern and fresh but with a simple melody that is so infectious, it can easily compete with the biggest hook-writers of today. The chorus of Drawing Board is one of the strongest on the record and one where George’s voice is the key to its effectiveness. In it, he’s out for revenge on his lover, as he tries to come up with ways to be rid of her, such as the reference to Sweeney Todd, whom he recommends to cut her hair.
In between, there are songs that could be from any era in modern music. He brings swooning romance into Barcelona, a pleasant dedication to his love of the city, and in Leaving It Up To You, even though it’s about his distaste toward an old flame’s new “half-wit of a boyfriend”. Its forward lyrics contain some of the album’s best lines: “I’ve been told you new playmate’s successful and he’s handsome and he’s charming/It’s a damn good job he isn’t here or I may have wound up harming your darling.”
It’s George’s versatility in his music that makes Wanted On Voyage an impressive debut album with key moments distributed throughout. Through it all, George still startles with the final track Spectacular Rival, where its sinister lyrics are commanded by his jarringly deep voice accompanied by a dramatic musical backdrop.
Wanted On Voyage could be filed in the instant classic section because of the timelessness of the music but also because it quite possible will be remembered as a key record from this period out of the UK in the coming years.
1. Blame It On Me
3. Cassy O’
5. Listen To The Man
6. Leaving It Up To You
7. Did You Hear The Rain?
8. Drawing Board
9. Stand By Your Gun
11. Over The Creek
12. Spectacular Rival