In his Rolling Stone cowl story from this April, Ed Sheeran revealed the existence of one other full Aaron Dessner-produced undertaking that got here out of the classes for – (Subtract), which the singer-songwriter launched in May. Sheeran didn’t have clear-cut targets for the album on the time. But, like his pal Taylor Swift, it appears he has hit a particular stride working with Dessner. Just 4 months after the discharge of (Subtract), Autumn Variations is right here. It’s Sheeran in just-in-time-for-fall mode, a set of reflective songs with melodies that swirl like eddying leaves and lyrics filled with pumpkin-ale introspection that usually dwell on the seasonal nature of non-public development.
With Autumn Variations, Sheeran has entered a brand new season of his personal life: His seventh studio album is the primary exterior of the mathematical image thread that linked his earlier work, and the primary LP off the British songwriter’s label, Gingerbread Man Records. But in trying ahead, he hasn’t left the previous behind solely, as lots of the album’s songs recall to mind the candy simplicity of his earlier 2010s albums, + (Plus) and x (Multiply), although with a mature twist. The LP is inspired by Sheeran’s friends “going by way of so many life adjustments,” and is instantly influenced by the work of Twentieth-century English composer Edward Elgar’s equally themed Enigma Variations. In an announcement, Sheeran defined, “After the warmth of the summer season, every part both calmed, settled, fell aside, got here to a head, or imploded.”
On Autumn Variations, the storytelling abilities that paved the best way for Sheeran’s mainstream success are on full show. “Plastic Bag” psychoanalyzes a hedonistic pal who tries to seek out the remedy to their melancholy on the backside of plastic drug baggies. Similarly, “Spring” and “When Will I Be Alright” are about clawing your method out of despair with mushy, acoustic melodies as a salve towards sorrow. In the guitar-plucked “Page,” a egocentric pal is caught within the throes of a damaged relationship they’re at fault for ending: “For a second of glory, I’d threat all I’m,” Sheeran sings. Another pal suffers a piercing heartbreak in “Punchline,” as Sheeran belts with unrestrained power over a rock-infused crescendo that may recall to mind Hozier’s sweeping indie people.
“That’s on Me” is the highpoint of Autumn Variations. The music is a cynical call-back to Sheeran’s early sing-songy rapping on hits like “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” with the singer sharing a few of his (or a pal’s) deepest, darkest ideas: “I depend to 10, and I hope to vanish,” he provides, surmising if life doesn’t get higher, “we’re fucked, aren’t we?”
It’s not all doom and gloom. Some of Autumn Variations’ brightest moments chronicle the blossoming romantic lives of Sheeran’s pals. Album opener, “Magical,” is a twinkling, immersive observe about love at first sight. The delicate ballad “American Girl” tells a narrative about falling in love in cramped flats over packing containers of Chinese takeout and ingesting from stolen copper mugs. On an album crammed with powerful philosophical questions and bleak realities, Autumn Variations ends on a optimistic word with “Head > Heels” — a love music within the main key that might play over the closing credit of a rom-com set within the fall. With the inventive roll Sheeran appears to be on, who is aware of what will likely be subsequent from him? He is perhaps already bracing for winter.