George Ezra – Staying at Tamara’s

by Shona Hickey

"There’s still a lot to be said for light-hearted catchiness." - Shona Hickey debates the merits of upbeat simplicity in George Ezra's latest release.

George Ezra lived the dream this year, deciding to up and move to Barcelona for a wee bit of creative inspiration. The young singer felt he needed some space to write his new album away from home’s distractions, and Tamara’s house (a stranger he met on the internet) was the place where album number two materialised. It’s been four years since Ezra’s first album, Wanted on Voyage, achieved incredible success and concretised his position as an exciting new male artist. His new album, aptly named Staying at Tamara’s, is thoroughly infused with summery, chirpy, Barcelona-inspired vibes, but if you were looking for something a bit deeper you may be rather disappointed.

The album’s first track really sets up the kind of listening experience the rest of the album entails; it’s incredibly light-hearted, but that’s often all it offers. Pretty Shiny People recalls a conversation about the awful state of things “Why why what a terrible time to be alive/ If you’re prone to over thinking”, but courageously suggests not to fear because “we’re alright together.” It’s easy enough to mock this kind of simple positivity, but this catchy album opener is still an enjoyable listen, and perhaps Ezra felt there was a simple point to be made about the importance of togetherness. It’s a shame that this light-hearted positivity becomes somewhat strained in the next few tracks, Don’t Matter Now and Get Away. However, the latter does engage with Ezra’s struggle with anxiety, a subject which he has promoted useful discussion of recently, so it is important to remember that the chirpiness of the tracks don’t have to be seen as fickle escapism, but potentially something much more beneficial.

As the album progresses we are treated to a few great songs. For me, Shotgun and Paradise are particularly catchy tunes, and Paradise has really shown its popularity in the charts since being released as a single. Very predictably, following these big summery songs, the record begins to slow down somewhat, trying out some more piano-driven ballads. The change of pace is very welcome in Hold my Girl, where you really get to enjoy Ezra’s classic baritone voice in a nice simple love song. Although there are moments of vocal experimentation in a few of the more upbeat songs, I feel like there are a lot of missed opportunities for him to really show off his vocal capabilities. One of the most exciting things about Ezra as an artist is the uniqueness of his voice, which he uses so well when covering songs (check out any of his live lounges) but seems to get somewhat flattened in his own tracks.

This is definitely redeemed however in his collaborative track Saviour. I’m a big fan of anything First Aid Kit are involved with, and this western-infused song has a much more interesting sound, alongside much stronger lyrics. I would have to recommend skipping the track on the actual album however, and having a look for the Abbey Road Studios session version. This version has a more raw musicality to it, and more importantly the beautifully soulful voices of First Aid Kit are really highlighted.

It was always going to be difficult to follow such a strong debut album. Tracks like Blame it on Me and Barcelona have such a lasting quality that I feel is lacking in Staying at Tamara’s. Paradise does live up to the previous quality Ezra produced, but the upbeat, chirpiness of the rest of the album does become slightly grating. I have a lot of admiration for artists bringing music into the charts at the moment which is about positivity and solidarity, but I would have just enjoyed a little bit more complexity and variety to the tracks. Having said that, half the album will assuredly be on my Summer 2018 playlist. There’s still a lot to be said for light-hearted catchiness.

Picks:

Paradise, Shotgun, Saviour (Abbey Road version)

Rating: 3/5