The clocks may have just changed, but George Ezra only has his mind on speeding us all straight through spring and into the hazy peak of summer. Staying At Tamara’s is a record that is destined to soundtrack the 2018 festival season, indeed, it brings such an evocative mood that there are points that you can almost feel a warm breeze on your face and hear the ambience of large crowds standing and singing communally in a field. Surprisingly, for a record with such a lightness of touch, its genesis came from a slightly darker set of circumstances however.
After the runaway success of his debut Wanted On Voyage, Ezra suffered from anxiety as he returned to normality. Rather than feeling sorry for himself though, he took a leap into the unknown by taking an extended trip to Barcelona – eventually staying at an apartment owned by the titular Tamara. Taking inspiration from his surroundings and her wide circle of friends, the result is an album of pure, unbridled positivity and fun that will come to define the coming months for many. Opening track ‘Pretty Shining People’ faces up directly to Ezra’s angst and uncertainty, as he comes to the realisation that: “I feel I’m on an island in an ocean full of change…am I losing touch now?” However, any worries that this is going to be full of existential fears are quickly put to bed, and what is left is an album that shouts joyfully that everything is going to be just fine.
Rather than rushing back to the limelight with an album built around a couple of decent tracks, he has taken his time and produced a record jam-packed full of them. In many ways, Staying At Tamara’s bears similarities with Paolo Nutini’s own sophomoric record, Sunny Side Up, in both mood and as a giant leap forwards in the songwriting. ‘Don’t Matter Now’ and ‘Get Away’ possess the same lazy days vibe as that record with trumpets and ska-like sounds. Both refer to Ezra’s restorative flight to Barcelona, the former referring to a feeling that: “Sometimes you need to be alone now / shut the door, unplug the phone, speak in a language they don’t know” while the former tackles his personal worries head on (“It’s never been this way before, shut down by anxiety”). What is uncanny is Ezra’s ability to turn these moments into catchy, feel-good festival anthems.
His travels seem to have lent Staying At Tamara’s an international feel. Both ‘Shotgun’ and ‘Sugarcoat’ have a delectable African vibe, both rhythmically and lyrically. ‘Paradise’ is built on a similar tempo to that popularised by Vampire Weekend, with an addictive call-and-response section that in turn becomes an updated version of The Killers’ ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’. Ezra completely inhabits these influences like a second skin, taking and tweaking them into something brand new. An infectious likeability, rather than a cold calculation, surrounds Staying At Tamara’s, eradicating any cynicisms around these clear influences. ‘Hold My Girl’ is exquisitely gorgeous, and will form the soundtrack to many romantic scenes across the world this year.
There is much to love about Staying At Tamara’s – it is an album that wears its heart on its sleeve and is absolutely everything you would want from a summer pop album. There’s a time and place for angst and for railing at the state of the world, but there is also a perfect moment for unadulterated fun which this record provides in spades. It is also another piece of evidence that sometimes it is better for artists to disappear for a year or two to experience the real world rather than riding a relentless album-tour-album-tour cycle. Thankfully, when George Ezra went away to rediscover himself and his mojo, he found something else that was magical along the way. If Tamara is booking guests this year, count me in.