Album of the Week # 7: + (Deluxe Edition) - Ed Sheeran

Background/General Thoughts

Three-hundred and twelve. That’s the number to success. Well, in Ed Sheeran’s case, that and years of practice. Three-hundred and twelve is the number of gigs he played in 2009 on his way to stardom.

He said that he read an interview with James Morrison that said that Morrison had done 200 gigs in a year, and Sheeran wanted to beat him on this number -Wiki

After buying a ticket to L.A., with practically no contacts at all, he played open mics and poetry nights. One of those in which Jamie Foxx happened to be present. Highly impressed, Foxx invited him to his home and record. In addition, his following grew to great heights via Youtube. And for good reason, he’s quite unique. Kind of a jack-of-all-trades.

Ed Sheeran’s sound is quite versatile. Mixtures of acoustic, folk, pop rock, hip hop, and beatboxing all mesh and blend into a sound I find quite refreshing. He has a sound that reminds me of an early “tongue-twisting lyrical” Jason Mraz with the soulfulness of James Morrison with a freestyler’s delivery. There are plenty of interesting tones and textures and for this 21 year-old to find a sound so unique is simply astounding. The kid is a wiz in the production booth, too! Furthermore, this is an album rather broad and interesting themes. Let’s jump into them, shall we?

Track by Track Thoughts:

1) The A Team - First track on the album and hands down my favorite. This is such a beautiful and melancholy tale of a drug addicted prostitute. The story will make  your heart sink. Being apart of this “Class A Team” (which from my understanding indicates that she is one of the “better” prostitutes) and wanting more from her life, she desperately seeks something better but sadly “it’s too cold outside for [this] angel to fly.” The brilliance in this incredibly dark and dreadfully themed track is Sheeran’s ability provide a delicateness that is infectious. Whether it’s through the simple guitar riff or his tone, it’s the commitment to atmosphere what makes this track so charming and an instant sing-a-long track. This is an ability of Sheeran immediately becomes apparent throughout +.

2) Drunk - This track appeals to a very common theme in heartbroken reminiscing. It’s immediately clear in the 1st verse that the guy’s flaw in this relationship was his inability to change. Thus, looking back on the whole situation he only wishes to feel drunk for its sense of numbness. From a musical perspective, Sheeran’s lyrical delivery is quite precise and quick. It’s very much like that of UK hip hop artists such as Example. I find this to be a very enjoyable track because it’s approachable and its hip hop-infused moments. Oh, did I mention that there is a dubstep remix as well?

3) U.N.I. - This track is interesting. There is an incredible amount of clever wordplay. Most obviously, is the reference U-N-I, from my understanding is a British term for university (which is equivalent to college for us stateside). Thus, this relationship in this track ended because priorities. It’s a common theme that most people experience so I commend Sheeran for approaching it in his own unique way. Speaking of unique way, let me say this song has a rapid-fire flow that would make speed-demon rappers like Twista or Busta Rhymes proud. I really like the slow tempo/fast lyric juxtaposition that Sheeran creates here.

4) Grade 8 - This is one of the more upbeat tracks on the album. Drawing on themes of flirtation and young love, this song comes off as very club friendly. Beside that, I think it serves as a palette cleanser preparing you what what’s next.

5) Wake Me Up - This is the most delicate track on the album. At its very core, this is a song of contemplation. Sheeran excellently articulates the silver lining of a what seems to be far from perfect relationship. The completely striped down and minimal instrumentation is a very bold move. The bare and still moments of silence and Sheeran’s conversational tone make this the kind of track suitable for emulation but never truly imitated by anyone else.

6) Small Bump - Whoa. That was really the first thought in my head after listening to this song for first time. This is a song about the hopes and expectations of an upcoming birth of a newborn. However, just when you approach the end, all it takes is 2 lines

You’re just a small bump unborn…four months then torn from life
Maybe you were needed up there but we’re still unaware of why

and you are left distraught. Sheeran has said in interviews that this song was based on one of his friends losing their unborn child. Beautifully and emotionally, Sheeran once again develops a lyrical structure that you think you have figured out but then flips it on its side and you’re left in awe.

7) This - This short track is your usual acoustic love ballad. While I do think it’s a very sweet and solid ballad, nothing really sticks out to me. In no way does that mean it’s a bad song, it’s just not an interesting song in my opinion.

8) The City - First off, let me just say that the beatboxing on this song is pretty rad. Hardly anyone beatboxes in studio anymore, and to be so crisp doing it takes great skill. This uptempo song is really about trying to fit in a new environment but ultimately realizing that maybe it’s just not you. Perhaps this move was done out of angst as “What I do isn’t up to you” indicates. Furthermore, it is clearly stated that “This is not my home” after 2 choruses of the opposite. Once again, Sheeran keeps the listener guessing.

9) Lego House - This song in its simplest interpretation is the classic “I screwed up, I want you back” song. However, in a far more elegant and sophisticated way, Sheeran elaborates using a melodic progression with tongue-twister quirkiness. I believe this song is the current single for this album. Solid choice.

10) You Need Me, I Don’t Need You - This song is for the haters. The lyrics are rapid-fire and incredibly sharp. Ed Sheeran does music in own way and this song silents anyone who thinks otherwise. Honestly, I didn’t expect a song like this. Prior this track, the album took on a chill feel and have this “in your face” kind of track is definitely interesting.

11) Kiss Me - This wonderfully written love ballad articulate a man’s lingering doubt of his ability to fully love. Questions of self-doubt are heavily abundant. There are beautiful images of his love caring and nurturing though. A new musically element appears on this track: a swooning guitar solo. It’s a solid track.

12) Give Me Love - Oh wow. The length of this track is probably the most noticeable aspect of this song. Now, I truly expect that if a song is six minutes or longer, that it better take me on a journey of unique sounds. This surely does not disappoint. The choral breakdown around the 4:30 mark is superb. Then, the song takes a 40 second transition to a very chilling and elegant vocal sequence. It’s very somber and gentle at best. The album is wrapping up and you know it at this point. To end off the album in this fashion is a pretty bold move.

*There are 4 extra bonus tracks on the deluxe version but I will let you listen to those and let you form your opinion :) I find them to be pretty superb though!*

Rating: 5 out of 5; This is probably the best album I have heard thus far this year. It is an incredibly satisfying listen. Its depth and breadth of lyrical themes is just master class. There will be a song on here for everyone to love. A bit too mellow at times, I feel that Sheeran’s cleverness and musical awareness more than make it up for it by provide interesting wordplay and sounds. I can see why he’s such a sensation in England. It’s only a matter of time before he hits it big in the U.S.

Album of the Week #11: channel ORANGE - Frank Ocean

Background/General Thoughts

“It succinctly defines me as an artist for where I am right now and that was the aim. It’s about the stories. If I write 14 stories that I love, then the next step is to get the environment of music around it to best envelop the story and all kinds of sonic goodness.” - Frank Ocean via interview with

I’m going to start this review with the fact that before listening to this album, I practically knew nothing of Frank Ocean. There were bits and pieces I understood from a few singles, his New Orleans roots, and his involvement in Odd Future. However, as this album released a week early via iTunes, the buzz was electric. The number of requests for me to review this record was high and my interest in learning about this artist was just as high. Before I began listening to this record, I asked a friend of mine, his name is Chandler, and a Frank Ocean enthusiast to sum up Frank Ocean in a little paragraph. Well, this little paragraph ended up being a pretty decent paragraph but there was one was a certain part that stuck with mine and really served as an exception to look for in channel ORANGE.

What it boils down to in the end is the pure passion, substance, and emotion that you feel in his music. Not only does he write every one of his songs based on anecdotes, but he also includes extremely complex chord progressions, something that you don’t often see in mainstream music in general - Chandler

*You can read his full statement HERE if you’d like*

That certainly goes to say that this record has received critical acclaim and strong reviews from those I’ve read. 

In light of all of that, I think it’s about time to start diving into the tracks. Shall we?

Track by Track Thoughts:

1) Start - From the first track, you already know that this album is attempting to be different. While listening to this intro once may leave you intrigued or baffled, it may take a couple complete listens to understand the ebb and flow of this album. This 46 second snippet is an introduction to the listener, a nontraditional and unconventional one at that. From the different samples and sounds presented to us, such as the subway, text message notifications, and the original Playstation start-up noise, you know that Frank Ocean is a part of an urban generation, a 90s kid, much like the majority of his listeners. I love this intro just because of its nostalgic factor and it definitely fits the mold of start in an interesting way.

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