Ed Sheeran, Mastodon and more...

June 23, 2014 1:05 PM

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Ed Sheeran, Mastodon and more...

Poor Ed Sheeran. Apparently a worldwide smash debut (“+”), some big hits (“the A Team,” “Lego House”) and a stint opening in stadiums for Taylor Swift don’t guarantee happiness. “x” (aka “Multiply”), the British singer-songwriter’s sophomore album, has its trilly love songs (“One,” “Tenerife Sea”) but primarily deals with the personal woes and the havoc success can have on one’s personal life; “The irony is if my career and music didn’t exist/In six years you’d probably be my wife with a kid” he tells one former paramour in “The Man,” while “I’m a Mess” offers apologies and “Don’t” as well as “The Man” ruminate on betrayals from both sides. The brooding does, however, add some dimension to Sheeran’s character, giving a darker personal hew and heft to the more romantic idealism of “+.” And “x” expands his sonic palette, too, making greater use of full-band instrumentation and bringing in new collaborators such as Pharrell Williams and Rick Rubin and adding more beat sensibility on tracks such as “Sing” and “Don’t,” while “Runaway,” “Nina” and “Thinking Out Loud” explore classic soul and the artful confession “Bloodstream” offers a pensive ebb and flow. The album-closing “Afire Love” grapples with death and longing, but Sheeran finds uplift, too, ending with hallelujah salutations that envision hope rising from the ruins that dominate this 12-song set.

Few bands in the realm of heavy rock have been as consistent as Mastodon. During the past 12 years, the Atlanta quartet’s progress has been steady but exciting, a taut balance of brute force and precision musicianship along with conceptual daring — and some pretty trippy album art to go with it. Mas...

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