Artist: George Ezra
Album: Staying at Tamara’s***1/2
Four years after making a splash with his massively popular debut Wanted on Voyage (2014), English singer George Ezra has returned with his sophomore record, Staying at Tamara’s, a decidedly safe set of sunny guitar pop songs with rousing choruses and cheerful melodies.
Produced by Cam Blackwood and co-written by the singer himself mostly with the help of Athlete vocalist Joel Pott, the new album finds Ezra singing about anxiety, escape, and, of course, love.
When the record is at its best – particularly with the infuriatingly catchy ‘Paradise’ that will burrow its way into your mind and then adamantly refuse to leave despite all your protestations, and the potential summer anthems ‘Shotgun’ and ‘Get Away’ – it’s hard to deny Ezra’s appeal. But over the course of 11 tracks, the singer-songwriter’s formula starts to become a little too repetitive, and when the monotony sets in, it becomes evident that most of these songs by themselves would have next to no personality were it not for Ezra’s deep, rich voice.
It’s painfully clear that the artist has no intentions of surprising listeners, let alone challenging them in any way. Yet it’s so hard to dislike his output, thanks to his innate ability to come up with solid pop tunes.
Staying at Tamara’s may make you wish the singer had lent his lovely baritone to more interesting and fresh material, but the album will also leave you humming the standout tracks because while it may be sonically and thematically inoffensive and unexceptional, ultimately the album is still pleasantly charming.
Highlights: ‘Paradise’, ‘Get Away’, ‘Shotgun’, ‘All My Love’
Artist: Deb Talan
Album: Lucky Girl***
The last decade of Deb Talan’s life has been both rewarding and challenging. On the musical front, the American singer – the female half of the indie pop duo The Weepies – has found success with her group. On a personal level, she has married her life and music partner Steve Tannen, had three children, and battled and survived stage three breast cancer. Her experiences have prompted her to now “step out musically” and make a solo record that gives her a chance to express herself as “a survivor, a songwriter, and a lucky girl”.
Backed by gentle guitars, pianos, and drums, Talan reflects on her life and identity in this collection of 13 soft, soothing songs. She writes and sings about motherhood and children in the touching ‘Growing Up’, and references other musical works in tracks like ‘Joshua Tree in the Headphones’ and ‘Son Volt Came to Town’. Her music instantly sounds familiar as the singer never wanders too far from the Weepies style and doesn’t take this opportunity to explore new musical grounds.
While this set of melodious, intimate songs is always amiable, it suffers from Talan’s reluctance to try something a bit different on her solo outing, because even though individually these songs are beautiful, as an album, Lucky Girl feels safe, repetitive, and not quite as memorable as one would have hoped.
Highlights: ‘Butterfly’, ‘Joshua Tree in the Headphones’, ‘Growing Up’
Artist: The Fratellis
Album: In Your Own Sweet Time****
The Fratellis may have lost some of their manic effervescence in the decade since the release of their debut album Costello Music (2006) but the now-seasoned group has clearly retained its ability to deliver upbeat, catchy alternative rock songs. Their fifth record, In Your Own Sweet Time, sees the band come up with 11 vibrant new tracks that their fans will find very hard to resist.
Powered, once again, by Jon Fratelli’s wry lyrics and distinct delivery, the new album is well-crafted and gives listeners another shot of lively rock while giving the band a chance to gently expand their sound.
Reuniting with Tony Hoffer, who also produced the group’s debut, has clearly paid off. From the buoyant album opener ‘Stand Up Tragedy’ to the Indian-influenced closer ‘I Am That’ (which is also the most unique track on this set), the record captures the band’s ability to put together pop hooks with rock elements and create infectious music. Standouts like ‘I’ve Been Blind’ (which begs to be put on repeat) and ‘Indestructible’ are among the most contagious tracks the group has released of late.
In Your Own Sweet Time may not be as hyper energetic as their ‘Creepin’ Up The Backstairs’ days, but it remains fun from start to finish. And while it may not be the most interesting album you’ll hear this year, it will probably be among the most enjoyable ones.
Highlights: ‘Stand Up Tragedy’, ‘Starcrossed Losers’, ‘I’ve Been Blind’, ‘Laughing Gas’