This self-titled debut album from Wellington artist Solomon Esera, who professionally goes by the stage name Ezra Phoenix, is both a sonic treat and powerful statement of who Ezra is – as an artist and beyond. Exploring themes from his own personal narrative including self-discovery, sexual identity, expression and growth, Ezra uses his lush vocals, along with carefully considered instrumentation, to lay his heart on his sleeve. Each track throughout the album manages to be both vulnerable and provocative at just the right moments.
The instrumentation is balanced well in a textural sense, particularly to emphasise the influence of pop and RnB genres throughout, still leaving space for Ezra’s vocal ability to really shine through.
The album was recorded, engineered and mixed by Toby Lloyd of Tiny Triumph Recordings. The production overall sounds is super clean and polished, yet manages to maintain the raw emotion and vulnerability that Ezra emotes with lyrics and vocals.
Lloyd also lent his skills to a large majority of the instrumentation and arrangement of each track, as well as co-writing Run With The Wild Ones and DUY. Reuben Topzand plays keys on Wait For You, Love My Brain, Boy and Oxygen Tank, lending these tracks a kind of pop ballad familiarity that lure the listener in.
Love My Brain, Boy, one of the singles from the album, is one of the most successful combinations of Ezra’s pop and RnB influences on show in terms of both vocals and instrumentation. It is a true expression of his identity, framed by satisfying dynamic and instrumental changes that move his work from the more ordinary pop tropes and into elements of RnB.
Another beautiful display of Ezra’s voice is the track DUY, the great vocal production accompanied by straightforward yet impactful percussion that slowly adds to the song’s dynamic as it progresses, making for a pleasing slow burn.
Carry Me, the album’s closing track, is where Ezra’s vocals, after already making a great impression, truly come into their own. The track is a capella, but feels wide and ethereal as a result of layered harmonies complimented by just the right amount of reverb. Listening to it feels almost meditative, and a great way to finish this first introduction to Ezra Phoenix.