Deserving yet humble in the face of the widespread love he’s been receiving – even catching the attention of Sir Elton John himself – it begs the question of what exactly UK singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran is doing so right. In a nutshell: pretty much everything. The humble Suffolk hailing, sofa surfing 20-year-old has collaborated extensively, played prolific gigs and stayed true to himself in the face of disbelievers and record execs – to astonishing results and public adulation, culminating in [among other achievements] the highest charting debut single of 2011 with “The A Team.” Evidently he has a strong faith in himself and the path he wants to take; one that others find themselves having to agree with. Because he’s right.

A skilled wordsmith, Ed sings beautifully poignant lyrics with an equally impressive voice taking on topics others may shy away from; the likes of prostitution and manipulative managers. Although there aren’t any tracks you would wish to fast-forward through, the album’s most delicate sections are undoubtedly where Ed proves his worth with an impressive expression of universal emotion, picking up on the small details that make us human. This is especially effective in tracks like “Wake Me Up,” where he tells tales of watching Shrek and making heart pendants; bringing to life memories we each have our own versions of. Making both sad and happy songs equally magical Ed gives insight into his most private thoughts, even going so far as to tell us the tale of a miscarried child in “Small Bump.”

With an engaging and refreshing honesty, you are left wishing and feeling like Ed is your best friend. This intimate feeling also comes across when watching Sheeran perform live, which is particularly commendable when the audience spans in the high hundreds; which Ed’s audiences now do. [Check out our review of his first headline show here.]

Straddling the [previously believed to be wide] berth between acoustic and grime, Ed closes this gap with lovesick ballads on an acoustic guitar suddenly lunging into quick fire raps. The rough feel on several of the tracks, such as second single “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” has an at times frenetic appeal with the sense of being let into Ed’s private world and stream of consciousness.

At just 20 years old Ed’s lyrics reveal a mind that is older – but that is not to distract from his vocal ability; some of the best examples of which come across in tracks “Kiss Me” and “Give Me Love.” With powerfully belted out vocals switching to a hushed, sultry voice with ease, you are left with an understanding that regardless of how good this album is, Ed hasn’t even almost reached the height of his potential. And judging by his loyal fan base, he’ll have plenty more opportunity to wow us all over again.

Ed Sheeran – +
Released: September 12, 2011
Label: Atlantic
Buy: iTunes / Amazon