Album Review: George Ezra – “Wanted on Voyage”

George Ezra - Wanted On Voyage

Chances are you’ve already heard George Ezra’s breakout single, “Budapest,” 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 “Blame It on Me,” which builds like a train picking up steam. In fact, many of the album’s tunes, including “Cassy O’” and “Did You Hear the Rain?” — a blues romp you can imagine belonging in a Tarantino western — follow a similar trajectory, mounting from “foot stomps and clicks and claps” to driving guitar and gospel choirs.

The bulk of Ezra’s odes revolve around relationships — and most of the time, he’s on the outside looking in. For example, in the beautiful “Barcelona,” he imagines lying beside his missing girl’s side in the city by the sea. In “Drawing Board,” he plots against an ex spending her nights with another man, and in “Did You Hear the Rain?” he warns of heading back home after being forced to pack and leave.

Better than most debuts in any genre, Ezra’s maiden Voyage isn’t free of some bumps in the road. With its guttural vocals and shuffling guitar, “Listen to the Man” falls a little flat. And “Breakaway,” the album’s longest song, trudges from synth feedback to an overwrought chorus. Fortunately, these asides are few and don’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 — Ezra’s passion-filled voice is the centerpiece of the album’s dozen songs. While he often woos you with his deep register, the 21-year-old troubadour also isn’t afraid to fire up his falsetto, as he does on standout tracks ”Leaving It Up To You” and the joyous, nearly dance-worthy “Stand by Your Gun.”

But just when you think you’ve settled into Ezra’s simple, comfortable style, he closes the indie-folk album with the more complex “Spectacular Rival,” channeling Jim Morrison at his moodiest and perhaps foreshadowing an even more electrifying follow-up.

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