Review Summary: Mildly enjoyable album stuffed with too many ideas
Ed O'Brien is the guitarist for the rock band 'Radiohead', and at the tender age of 51 he has released his first solo album. It's encouraging that older people can still aspire to such things!
So while the artist is from a different era in music, EOB has done his best at following current trends in music, while somehow staying true to what would be acceptable for Radiohead. This music is not right on the edge, but it's closer to 2010s than 1990s, that's for sure. And while EOB is a guitarist by trade, this is not a guitar-centric record, but instead is quite eclectic.
The opening 'Shangri-la' reveals that this album has a strong rhythmic drive, and although it starts off as alt-rock, it ramps up into electronica before it's done. This sets up the remainder of the album, something in the vicinity of 'alternative electronica', with inspiration from 'chillwave' among other styles, interspersed with drum-less acoustic sections. It's as if there's a tussle between the electronic and acoustic sections that stand for opposing sides. The vocals often take the role of supporting texture, although Ed often takes the role of 'hesitant lead singer'.
This is an enjoyable album. There are no 'weak tracks' that detract from a good 'beginning to end' listen. However, there is nothing 'outstanding' about it. That is the thing with a lot of modern musicians, for them, music is like an algorithm, and as long as they input the right 'elements', the finishing product should be fine.
However, like many modern artists, this music completely lacks truly outstanding moments, inspirational songwriting - 'Earth' is absolutely littered with ideas, many ideas, so many colours (like the front cover), textures, effects... but is lacking in truly memorable songs.
Among the best songs, well they are all 'good', especially the charming acoustic ditties 'Sail On' and 'Long time coming'. The most inspiring song here is 'Mass' - it begins with a very spiritual acoustic guitar riff, as if all the illusions of this world are stripped away, then it subsides and is drowned out by overly distorted guitar (I mean that literally, there is too much feedback) and then that stops and there are swirling vocal harmonies, before ending with the opening acoustic guitar.
Ultimately, EOB is a decent album, and hopefully he makes more, even better albums later on.