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Escape with George Ezra’s ‘Staying at Tamara’s’

| Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Cristina Interiano | The Observer

After the release of his first studio album in 2014, George Ezra jetted off to Barcelona to craft his follow-up. Forgoing glamorous hotels and glitzy lodgings, Ezra found his inspiration renting an Airbnb from the Tamara of the album’s title. The album, “Staying at Tamara’s,” embraces the warm, relaxed feeling of summer travel lending every track a jaunty, carefree charm. Ezra focuses on the good things in life and in the end creates 11 likable tracks about escaping and dreaming.

The album’s opener, “Pretty Shining People,” sets a tone of near-relentless positivity that Ezra maintains for the entirety of “Staying at Tamara’s.” He begins telling the story of “Me and Sam in the car, talking ’bout America / Heading to the wishing well” setting himself up for the song’s unfathomably cheerful chorus. The song continues on in a way that makes the similarly titled REM track, “Shiny Happy People,” sound like a downer. During the chorus Ezra repeats “Hey pretty smiling people / We’re alright together, we’re alright together,” his baritone voice contrasting nicely with fast-paced guitar strumming against a strong, joyful background drum beat.

“Shotgun” is another preposterously cheerful song that has the potential to be this summer’s anthem. It opens softly, conjuring images of driving along aimlessly and the itch to explore. The travel-inspired contentment characteristic of the album as a whole is present from the first lines of the song. Ezra opens with the lyrics, “Homegrown alligator, see you later / Gotta hit the road, gotta hit the road” and carries the tone of eager exploration through the rest of the song. Ezra continues to embrace the genre of peppy folk pop on “Paradise,” the second of two singles released early from the album. As the album’s midpoint, “Paradise” is where the lively, crowd-pleasing choruses reach their apex. The song possesses an irresistible momentum sure to make it huge.

The real world briefly intrudes on the track “Only a Human.” Ezra, over the course of the album and in interviews leading up to its release, addresses his own personal struggle with anxiety that led to the creation of “Staying at Tamara’s.” That struggle is evident on “Only a Human.” The track is a slower-paced attempt at vulnerability where Ezra’s deep, bass voice has the opportunity to shine and to reassure. He stresses that “No, you can’t blame yourself / You’re just human” and invites his listeners to take a step back from the world around them. The change of pace is a welcome contrast to the overly cheerful album standouts sure to be played on repeat this summer.

“Staying at Tamara’s” offers a message of upbeat and hearty resilience in the form of easy-to-swallow, playful pop songs. Released just in time for summer road trips, barbecues and music festivals, “Staying at Tamara’s” is a welcome slice of sunny folk pop. Ezra may play it safe, keeping his lyrics for the most part lighthearted, but he still manages to find maturity on his second studio album. He stresses the power of taking oneself away and finding peace and positivity in, as he says on “Pretty Shining People,” “a terrible time to be alive / If you’re prone to overthinking.”

 

Artist: George Ezra

Album: “Staying at Tamara’s”

Label: Columbia Records

Tracks: “Shotgun,” “Paradise,” “Pretty Shining People”

If you like: Ed Sheeran, James Bay, Vance Joy

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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