Framlingham, Suffolk UK based Ed Sheeran is back at it again with his sophomore release titled X. The follow up to 2011's + finds the singer-songwriter changing course somewhat on this one, and aiming for a more eclectic sound that balances out his softly foucsed guitar riffs and delicate vocal refrains that make the women swoon and also broadens his audience out somewhat as well.
The disc starts off grand with "One", a soft, whimpering track that allows Ed to pour out his emotions and focus all his attention on the musical audience with his vocals reaching new heights never before dreamed of or dared before, and hints at a huge rise of musical maturity and confidence from his last record. "I'm a Mess" does a neat job of varying the temo of the acoustic guitar, and matching the spped and tempo with that of Ed's voice that tells a vivid story and paints an accurate portrayal of who he is and how he's changed immensely over the last few years in between album release cycles. "Sing" is the disc's first single that has been gaining massive airplay recently and is one of the premiere tracks to hear this summer. Producer supermind Pharrell had a hand in producing this one, and his influence is evident on this track that gives him the chance to branch out into a different arena and entice those who may have not checked out his music before, but were more than daring to try anyways. "Nina" has a sort of hip-hop infleunce with Ed's vocals moving at a pretty fast clip, and mixes in a bit of rhyming skills that allows him to blossom and find his groove amidst it all. "Photograph" is my favorite track off the album that defines Ed's singer-songwriter aesthetic that he's worked so hard perfecting while growing up in the UK: sharp and poignant guitars, along with vivid lyricism and Ed's indelible vocals working its way through your consciousness almost immediately and leaving you with a positive spin on life and everything else associated with it.
We get ready for the second half of the album with "Tenerife Sea", a deeply melodic tune featuring refined acoustic guitar melodies and Ed's trademark vocals contiuing to work wonders and curing what ails you almost immediately and putting you in a positive frame of mind. "The Man" features more of that hip-hop experimentation we heard earlier on in the album and sees Ed continuing to impress his followers, and even himself for that matter at how far he's come. "Thinking Out Loud" begins to close out the effort with Ed's vocals leading the charge out of the gate, and providing for a way to dim the lights down low and give Ed a chance to tie it all up succinctly. "Afire Love" ends our journey here with a somber and mysterious sounding tune featuring low key piano melodies that meld well together with the subtle attitude of the song that bring everything else full circle once you're done listening. I wasn't totally on board with Ed Sheeran when he first came out, but over time I gradually grew to appreciate Ed's abilities as a musician, and his prowess for crafting an emotional connection directly into his cortex that makes it feel like he's performing exclusively for you and making you a part of the experience.
All in all, a terrific musical experience from Ed Sheeran, a lovely lad who is only getting better as time goes along and has begun to find his voice and calling that will serve him well now and for some time to come.
I'm a Mess
Thinking Out Loud