Ed Sheeran rings in a new season with his masterfully-crafted independent record “Autumn Variations.”
Ed Sheeran Enters A New Chapter with ‘Autumn Variations’
Ed Sheeran brings in a new season of his career with his Sept. 29 album “Autumn Variations.” Not only is the work artistically extraordinary, it’s also his first independent record and the first of his albums to be separated from his mathematics collection.
The opening tracks for “Autumn Variations” are consumed with nostalgia for the beauty of relationships close to the heart — love of a person and love for a place.
“Magical” kicks off the album with dreamlike lyrics and an airy melody. The song sets the scene of two people basking in the silent presence of each other.
Sheeran’s signature acoustic guitar alongside his soothing voice and alluring lyrics orchestrates the feeling of slowly falling in love. It sounds like a song couples would slow dance to under a night sky or in a high school gym for senior prom — it’s utterly cliché with its hopes for falling in love so simply.
The album’s second track “England” defines Sheeran’s personal, physical sense of home. It offers whimsical observations of the objects he sees on the streets of England, such as the flag by a pub, electric lines and fairy lights. The lyrics are reminiscent and full of love for England, as if the narrator is giving the city a warm hug of gratitude.
The guitar enters with a jumpier beat, offering a blend of electric and acoustic sounds. Soft percussion weaves in and out throughout “England.”
The subsequent tracks are stark in contrast, shifting into darker themes relating to overcoming adversity.
“Amazing” discusses a sickness afflicting the narrator where Sheeran explores emotional pain and loss. However, his musical accompaniment plays an uplifting, catchy rhythm using piano and percussion, contradicting the song’s sullen lyrics.
“I caught a sickness and they don’t know the name of it / I flew to Paris trying to get away / Mmm, I drown my sadness, embarrassed by the shame of it / But all it seems to do is magnify the pain,” Sheeran sings.
“Plastic Bag” continues the trend of voicing struggles of personal life, emphasizing lack of purpose and deep loneliness. Sheeran conveys his reliance on party culture for numbness, singing how it’s the only thing that holds promise in the world other than someone “giving love from a plastic bag” — drawing listeners to consider if love can be disposable.
Romantic themes are sprinkled seemingly at random throughout, juxtaposing tracks exploring emotional baggage. Sheeran’s structuring of “Autumn Variations” feels jarring, throwing listeners from one emotion to another.
The first love song “American Town” is oddly placed in the album, following the melancholic tone of “Blue.”
The lyrics of “Blue” emphasize an all-consuming loneliness, with the narrator saying, “I’m not over you / I’ll be forever lonely.”
Sheeran then jumps to hopeful lyrics of love and intimacy. The narrator is overjoyed to have a loved one to share intimate moments with in “American Town.”
“Lost in love and we don’t wanna be found / It’s just you and me / My English girl in an American town,” Sheeran sings.
In “That’s On Me,” Sheeran continues with a repetitive lyrical run about sadness and being an overall disappointment. The tune is played on the guitar with a quick beat followed by tambourine. It’s as if Sheeran and his buddies are gathered around a campfire singing an uplifting song with pained, tearful lyrics probing an inability to smile.
The following song “Page” continues to dig into this spiral of despair.
Sheeran’s seemingly thoughtless track list order reveals itself once more in his choice to put “Midnight” between “Page” and “Spring.”
“Midnight” is a love song written from the perspective of an idealist. It touches on thoughts of the love interest leaving him, realistically discussing doubts in a relationship. “Midnight” progresses to reveal they will always be together — “at midnight in your arms.”
Listeners are then immediately hit with “Spring,” which details a struggle to maintain sobriety.
“I’d do a sober month / I failed, but tried, and wrote this drunk / In overwhelming silence,” Sheeran sings.
Both “American Town” and “Midnight” draw listeners to consider the fleeting nature of love and its ability to fade sporadically.
Sheeran ends “Autumn Variations” with “Head > Heels,” a love song focusing on the difficulty of converting the emotional rawness of romance.
Sheeran seemingly describes an inability for someone to understand what they feel unless they are experiencing true love for themselves. Sheeran describes this feeling of love “Crashing in head then heels.”
“Autumn Variations” is available to stream on all major platforms.
Featured image courtesy of Gingerbread Man Records