English musician George Ezra has topped the charts internationally but has yet to make a name for himself stateside. Perhaps Ezra was hoping to build anticipation around his first album, “Wanted on Voyage,” by releasing it in the United States seven months after its European debut.
“Wanted on Voyage” opens with “Blame It on Me,” an upbeat track whose lyrics touch upon fantastical traveling, women and rhetorical questions. By the time “Wanted on Voyage” is finished, Ezra will name a total of four countries, and when he isn’t name-dropping, he’s talking about running away somewhere, real or otherwise. At the same frequency, Ezra asks women who he is trying to win back,questions such as, “Why you got it in for me?” and “Why should we care for what they’re selling us anyway?” His lust and insatiable wanderlust are the forces that drive this album forward.
Despite his intensity, Ezra lightens up on a few tracks. “Listen to the Man,” one of the shorter songs, is sweet and carefree. “Stand By Your Gun” has a bit of an island feel to it, especially in the places where Ezra explores his upper, wispy range.
The highlight of the album is “Budapest.” Against an easygoing beat and simple guitar riffs, Ezra sings about leaving everything he has to be with a woman, allowing the endearing message of the song to warm even the most cynical.
On the opposite end of the romance spectrum, “Leaving It Up to You” sounds like a singer-songwriter’s take on Nick Jonas’s “Jealous,” exploring the feeling of being upset when another man is after his woman, but rather than puffing his chest, Ezra leaves the choice in the lady’s hands.
The longest songs collect at the end, weighing the album down. “Breakaway” builds a bit slowly, and its repetitive lyrics only add to the feeling you’re trudging along with it. “Spectacular Rival,” the final song, spends at least two minutes on guitar solos, finishing with some experimental electronic sound effects thrown in at the end.
Although some may write off Ezra as another Ed Sheeran-wannabe, “Wanted on Voyage” indicates there’s something darker, more imaginative beneath his acoustic surface.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Jan. 29 print edition. Email Rachel A.G. Gilman at [email protected].