British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran hasn't released new solo material in almost two years. On top of that, he ended 2015 with the announcement that he'd be digitally unplugging and taking a much-need break to travel and rest following his lengthy tour in support of 2014's × (aka Multiply). Now, after a yearlong hiatus, the affable redhead has returned with two new singles – "Castle on the Hill" and "Shape of You" – and the promise of a new album titled ÷ (Divide). While his ride-or-die Sheerios wasted no time breaking the Internet with accolades and memes, we're happy enough to sit back and enjoy the mondo preview to his forthcoming project.
Sheeran waxes nostalgic about his younger days in the quick-paced ditty "Castle on the Hill." The self-penned ode to his Suffolk upbringing features a guitar-driven arrangement with a spirited infusion of country and bluegrass twang. In contrast, "Shape of You" is a Sia-esque pop groove with an infectious hook that he originally planned to offer to Rihanna. But he candidly admits that as he sang the lyrics, he realized, "Rihanna is not going to sing these words," and decided to keep it for himself. Smart move on his part as the song is a fun departure from his usual material and perfectly suited to his unique vocals.
In a statement about the dual release, Sheeran remarked, “I really wanted to show two different sides to my music that I’m equally as passionate about and I just knew I wanted to roll with two songs at the same time. I’m absolutely buzzing to be back.” And we're glad to have you back, Ed. Scroll down to hear both songs and watch the lyrics come to life through animated videos. "Castle on the Hill" and "Shape of You" (whose combined cover art creates an obelus) are available for streaming and download through your favorite app or digital retailer. While we wait for Divide to drop, you can keep up with the artist on his reactivated social media pages.