Ezra Williams – ‘Supernumeraries’ review: an artist firmly and confidently finding their feet
On their debut album, Ezra Williams embodies the idea of transformation as much as they sing about it. The 21-year-old is a master at communicating the inner monologue, layering deeply personal observations on desire, tenderness and frustration over soothing, mid-tempo guitar songs. When honesty is served up as nakedly and directly as it is on ‘Supernumeraries’, it can stop you in your tracks.
- READ MORE: The radical evolution of Ezra Williams
Over the past year, Williams, a Country Wicklow native, has overhauled both their sound and artistic identity. After emerging in 2018 with the peppy ‘Thinking Of You’, the Irish songwriter began uploading their acoustic tunes to SoundCloud; four years later, their breakthrough single ‘My Own Person’ soundtracked a key scene in Netflix’s smash-hit LGBTQ+ drama Heartstopper, nudging Williams towards the mainstream. But they were still figuring out who they were: earlier this year, Williams scrapped their previous alias of Smoothboi Ezra in order to represent the more confident, full-bodied sound of their new music. “I hated having to explain [the name], an inside joke that I had when I was 14,” they recently explained to NME of the decision.
‘Supernumeraries’, then, skips the friendly hello and dives straight into Williams’ ever-expanding and colourful world. Its 12 tracks are intimate and diaristic, but the album never feels one-note: Williams is at turns hopeful, liberated, confused, and anxious. “I don’t care about being on my own / Actually I do, but I don’t want you to know”, they sing on ‘Seventeen’ over a soaring pop melody, before letting out a lung-shattering scream. Here, Williams unpacks what it means to face up to loneliness, shifting into a confrontational voice that they embody easily.
A folkier softness is highlighted on ‘Don’t Wake Me Up’ and ‘Beside Me’, which glide along at a gentler place than much of ‘Supernumeraries’; they’re tentative songs but with a purpose, both of which contemplate what it means to not have – or need – the right answers for everything. This level of soul-searching is reflected elsewhere, too: ‘I Miss You(r) Face’ adopts a hushed vocal, as Williams hums along to the breezy melody, as though they are deep in thought.
One of the most refreshing things about the record is how, much like their transatlantic peer Leith Ross, Williams is uninterested in finding any kind of solution to the big, endless questions of young adulthood – they have started to make peace with their growing pains. Williams may often sing about the gap between who they are and who they want to be, but the giddy, occasionally uplifting atmosphere of ‘Supernumeraries’ gives them ample space to work out their next steps as an artist.