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Don’t Look Back in Anger

There’s something haunting about effortless way in which British songwriter Ed Sheeran manages to convey both emotion and rawness.

Album: X
Artist: Ed Sheeran
Record: Atlantic records
Price: Rs 499
Rating: ***1/2

By: Suyash Gabriel

There’s something haunting about the effortless way in which British songwriter Ed Sheeran manages to convey both emotion and rawness in his latest release, X (pronounced Multiply). The album exemplifies the uniqueness with which he approaches the melodies he deploys and the tones he adopts.

While the stylistic approach in X is similar to his 2011 debut album, + (pronounced Plus), the 23-year- old unleashes a more unhindered sound, with unfiltered lyrics which flow along with an assortment of catchy, yet poignant riffs. Sheeran’s tone in almost every song exudes an intimate aura that manages to grasp one’s attention without trying too hard.

The album kicks off with One, a low key, acoustic tune that maintains its somber energy throughout, with melancholic violin lines accompanying strong vocal harmonies. Sheeran maintains this energy in I’m a mess, which introduces a tinge of folk blended with an ambient, almost orchestral sound in terms of the guitar pattern and the vocal phrasing.

Following the two relatively modest tracks, he breaks into Sing, a track co-written and produced by Pharrell Williams. This number transports one straight to the pub dance floor, with its commercial beats, and a vocal hook in the chorus that anyone can sing along to. The track has a typical Pharrell touch, with hooky guitar phrases and a fun, upbeat vibe.

The album then dives into what is probably the most personal song on the album. Don’t, a song with no-nonsense lyrics and tangible intensity, delves into a tale of betrayal as Sheeran chronicles singer Ellie Golding’s alleged affair with a friend of his when they were on tour together. With raw lyrics, including lines like “Trust and respect is what we do this for. I never intended to be next, but you didn’t need to take him to bed, that’s all,” Sheeran’s hip-hop influence rears its head in this one, with staccato, borderline-aggressive guitar tones and a constant, tense riff over charged vocals. The griminess of the bass tone is topped off with heavy bass wobbles in the chorus. The momentum builds and keeps you gripped.

The album has a well rounded yet clearly experimental approach. For example, songs like Nina and Don’t give you a peak into the underground British, melodic hip-hop influence that works its way into Sheeran’s songwriting, with continuous piano melodies, heavy syllables, vaguely reminding one of British rap artiste, Professor Green.

However, Tennefire Sea and Thinking Out Loud are tracks that take one back to Sheerans 2011 hit, Give Me Love, with deftly written guitar lines, simple drum grooves and laid back tones that lend them a more acoustic-pop undertone. His experimental side clearly stands out in Bloodstream, one of the most subtle and intelligently written songs on the album. A song that he claims was written about his experience after being slipped Methamphetamine at a party, Bloodstream is a dark, almost hypnotising number with non-intrusive vocals and a simple but powerful back beat.

While the album is filled with ups and downs in terms of dynamics, each song still flows from one to the next without throwing you off. Quite a few songs, however, remind one immediately of the signature, alternative sound deployed by Scottish Alt-rock outfit, Snow Patrol, and considering that more than three songs on the album, including Tennefire Sea, Photograph and Afire Love, were written by the band’s frontman Johnny McDaid, this doesn’t come as a surprise.

While these songs illustrate similarities as far as instrumentation and song arrangement goes, Sheeran’s unparalleled vocals still stand out, holding their ground, and making these songs an interesting blend of Indie rock and acoustic pop.

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