By Greg Kennelty, April 6, 2018
Front to Back Album Review: George Ezra - Staying At Tamara's
- Released: March 23, 2018
- Label: Columbia, Sony
- Producers: Cam Blackwood, Joel Pott
3.5 Play Buttons
George Ezra’s new album Staying At Tamara's music gives off a sunny, feel-good summer vibe but the lyrics don’t quite match up with the music’s mood. Listeners get the immediate impression something melancholy is lurking right around the corner just by looking at the album's cover. Standing with his back toward the summer sun, leaning against a doorway, Ezra blocks the natural light that would flood the room as he stares at the floor as if a sobering thought has just completely ruined his mood. Staying At Tamara's opens with Pretty Shining People, an upbeat major-key song whose sunshiney mood is immediately put at odd with the opening lyrics, and that theme stays present throughout the rest of the album.
At 24 years old, Ezra is feeling anxious about his place in a progressively more insane world, something a lot of younger people are feeling more and more in modern times. Don't Matter Now and Get Away follow Pretty Shining People and the lyrics don't get much more positive – summer anthems that will be sung in countless cars with the windows down in the coming months. Don't Matter Now touches on letting go because most things "don't matter now," while Get Away is all about a man who's only times without anxiety and fear are when he's dreaming.
George Ezra isn't just telling us about his growing pains, anxieties, and worries through his lyrics, he's also showing us with how Staying At Tamara's is structured. After the first four songs things start slowing down. All My Love and Hold My Girl are various shades of lovesick, soulful ballads that don't keep up the tempo of the album's openers. Skipping ahead to the closers Only A Human and The Beautiful Dream, Ezra has reduced the drums to rolling snares and made way for sprawling synths, massive strings, and tons of reverb. What started as a sprint has ended up with a slow walk to a doorway on a summer day to look into an empty apartment where the listener soon realizes that yeah, you're alone now and the introspection is taking hold entirely.
Staying At Tamara's production follows the album's fading smile of a mood. Pretty Shining People and Get Away showcase a pretty close-knit soundstage with a fairly sparse band, but as the album goes on, the curtains are gradually drawn back the soundstage only gets wider. By the album The Beautiful Dream emanates from your speakers with a soundstage about seven miles wide with strings, keyboards, and Ezra's voice floating gently out into the sunlight.
Staying At Tamara’s is split in two – the first few songs are perfect for blasting while driving down the highway, and the second half is better suited for sitting alone at 10PM in a dimly lit room. It’s an album for a whole day of your life, sung sweetly and low as not to overburdened you with the anxious tales it tells.
Listened via Tidal and KEF EGG in via USB