Chances are youâ€™ve already heard George Ezraâ€™s breakout single, â€œBudapest,â€ a minimalist love song that lures you in with its enchanting subtleties.
The young Brit — whose distinctive, bass-baritone voice may rival that of ’90s-era band Crash Test Dummies — played the international hit to much acclaim on Saturday Night Live and parlayed that buzz into a well-received gig at Coachella in April.
Ezra kicks off his debut album, Wanted on Voyage, with the snappy guitar strum of â€œBlame It on Me,â€ which builds like a train picking up steam. In fact, many of the albumâ€™s tunes, including â€œCassy Oâ€™â€ and â€œDid You Hear the Rain?â€ — a blues romp you can imagine belonging in a Tarantino western — follow a similar trajectory, mounting from â€œfoot stomps and clicks and clapsâ€ to driving guitar and gospel choirs.
The bulk of Ezraâ€™s odes revolve around relationships — and most of the time, heâ€™s on the outside looking in. For example, in the beautiful â€œBarcelona,â€ he imagines lying beside his missing girlâ€™s side in the city by the sea. In â€œDrawing Board,â€ he plots against an ex spending her nights with another man, and in â€œDid You Hear the Rain?â€ he warns of heading back home after being forced to pack and leave.
Better than most debuts in any genre, Ezraâ€™s maiden Voyage isnâ€™t free of some bumps in the road. With its guttural vocals and shuffling guitar, â€œListen to the Manâ€ falls a little flat. And â€œBreakaway,â€ the albumâ€™s longest song, trudges from synth feedback to an overwrought chorus. Fortunately, these asides are few and donâ€™t cause the album to veer too far off the well-worn path.
The multi-talented singer-songwriter plays guitar, bass, and keyboards, but — and rightfully so — Ezraâ€™s passion-filled voice is the centerpiece of the albumâ€™s dozen songs. While he often woos you with his deep register, the 21-year-old troubadour also isnâ€™t afraid to fire up his falsetto, as he does on standout tracks â€Leaving It Up To Youâ€ and the joyous, nearly dance-worthy â€œStand by Your Gun.â€
But just when you think youâ€™ve settled into Ezraâ€™s simple, comfortable style, he closes the indie-folk album with the more complex â€œSpectacular Rival,â€ channeling Jim Morrison at his moodiest and perhaps foreshadowing an even more electrifying follow-up.