Young And Talented Maestro George Ezra Brings An Old Soul To Indie Pop On ‘Wanted On Voyage’

taylor
Written by taylor
/ 6 mins read

I generally have a thing for oxymoronic cases – in this case, George Ezra looking like 18 but sounding like he is a weathered 50 year old. Have yet to hear dude speak in an interview, but he sure sings deep, and I gather that it is all deftly applied technique to hit such low, throaty, rounded vocals. The sound is nothing particularly new in Indie Pop Folk, with artists tending to go real high or real low, but Ezra’s is certainly the most listenable low throated voice I have heard in a long time, as he tackles charming singer songwriter pieces on 2014 album Wanted On Voyage. The Englishman is a lifelong fan of American music, having grown up on Bob Dylan, and through Dylan, seeking out more rootsy music in the Blues of Lead Belly and Howlin’ Wolf. So there you have it – he is channeling the past where he can. English artists, I find, love American Soul, and are quite adept at mimicking it’s tone and cadences, to the point where you wouldn’t know they are UK natives. And the UK certainly was feeling Ezra, as this debut hit number one on their charts – propelling him to super stardom. Somehow, I missed this guy’s rise, and caught instead Ed Sheeran’s – who is a force in his own right, yet I found instantly while listening to this record for the first time that I like Ezra’s style and arrangements a lot more. No missteps really here, except some eye rolling moments when the folk gets to commercial or joyous, but for the most part these songs are all well thought out and most importantly, Ezra’s voice never falters for me – which is a rarity with regards to my general feelings about Indie Folk vocalization.

Vocals Not Quite Like Any I’ve Heard Upon Repeated Listening

On the subject of Indie Folk Pop vocalization, what I really despise is the fake-ness of the pronunciations when artists really shouldn’t be affecting their voice as much as they do to achieve a throaty or out the nose delivery. Not the case with George Ezra. With other artists, I find they round the endings of their words and end up sounding like a cat in heat. It all sort of gets caught in the throat or nose somewhere and looses wind and dies there in a very silly and unattractive way. Let me give you a non-Ezra example. 2019 BRIT award winner Tom Walker can doubtless sing – until the end of a phrase. It’s all upfront powerful Soul, but at the end, he swallows a lot of it and chooses to squeeze the rest out in a brief wispy vibrato that is just too garbled sounding. Kermit-the-frog ass singing. Ezra’s style on the other hand just seems to work – perhaps because he is singing in a way that comes natural to him? I don’t know, but I like it, in the same way Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam sang, low and throated and warbly and natural to him – though even in that example, his quality I believe was polarizing within the grunge scene. Ezra doesn’t always apply vibrato, just as often singing with a pure tone which doesn’t become swallowed, but is sustained and stretches for as long as he wants – and then all of the sudden, ‘bam’, he adds some vibrato because he can, even at such low rumbling frequencies. For an example of this versatility in action, check “Drawing Board.” It’s not often when I hear a voice where I say – ‘whoa, I haven’t exactly heard someone sing quite like that before.” He really knows when and where to either cut off his vocals, or let them ride. I suppose Julian Casablancas wields his voice in the same emotional manner that “Drawing Board” displays, but his is growlier, lo-fi distorted, and not as long winded or dynamic.

When Your Debut Contains Almost Unanimous Songwriting Excellence

What are these soul stirring low guitar notes supporting the mood from the background on “Over the Creek?” George Ezra lyrically matches the ghostly yet spritely noted track singing “you're situation must be there / you're situation must be over the creek / haunted we speak / but I can't of left you / I still haven't met you.” Every noise is so complimentary on this song, and I adore the additional twinkling acoustic guitar notes on top, dancing as if on a pond in the natural environment that this song images. More lines confront the unknown – is the grass on the other side of the hill greener or not? Should love begin or not? Is Ezra the problem or the solution to another’s happiness? The text, wherever possible, is haunted and poetic double speak that doubtless could be re-interpreted phrase by phrase and still leave you guessing what is wanted, lost, gained? Definitely some of the most challenging lyrics I’ve heard in awhile – and a testament to a well educated Englishman stretching the English language to its limits without sounding even a bit pretentious.

The Character Of Each Song Really Turns Newcomers Into Fans

Whether upbeat, bright and dancey like “Stand by Your Gun”, or melodically exploratory like “Breakaway”, there is something to suit any mood on Wanted On Voyage. The songs get better and better with each listen – even on several that I thought ‘uh-oh, too poppy of an arrangement” such as “Blame it On Me” and it’s clap-snap-along revivalist Soul Pop or the biggest single on the album “Budapest” with it’s naïve mantra – but after listening to these several times, I am completely clapping, snapping, nodding, stomping, saying ‘ah woo’ along with all the other smiling people. These songs really have the power to touch the heart, and contain so many fascinating little details, from deep lyrics to off the beaten path guitar and keyboard notes (“Cassy O’” transcends the Indie Folk celebration anthem style with really eerie and fascinating melody passages.) What is there left to say when every song is a thrill on a debut album (literally every track not mentioned is deeply listenable and intriguing). Well, I throw up my hands and say this man is a musical genius, as so many of you out there have already been saying, and I become and instant fan – totally excited to check out his other albums, devour the content of any interview he’s done, and play his music till the wheels fall off.

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  • George Ezra