Ed Harcourt's 2013 album, "Back Into The Woods" received mixed reviews mainly because of the arrangement of the tracks, which concentrated primarily on the piano and vocals. Personally, I loved the album and particularly how minimalistic the approach was, but it was clearly not to everybody's taste. "Time Of Dust", a "mini album" comprising of six tracks and weighing in at just shy of thirty minutes, features a fuller sound and a return to the kind of music long-standing Harcourt fans will more easily recognise, only with a grandiose bent, like a meeting of Elbow and Edgar Allen Poe. It is a beautifully hypnotic album that has the power to move you and yet also makes you shift uncomfortably in your seat as it takes you out of your comfort zone into a world dealing with death, dirt and desire, utilising masterful, magnificent music and powerful lyrics that can only be described as sheer poetry. This is the sound of Ed Harcourt at the very top of his game.
"Come Into My Dreamland", a dark, almost eerie, composition kicks off the album, the music shimmering and glistening as Harcourt invites and tempts the object of his attention into his world; it's a beautifully sensual song without directly mentioning sex or desire once and builds into something really quite magnificent. The edgy paranoia of "In My Time Of Dust" features a drumbeat reminiscent of "Dummy"-era Portishead, a memorable melody line and an atmospheric feel that builds up to a spine-tingling crescendo - it's really wonderful stuff. "The Saddest Orchestra (It Only Plays For You)" is a dramatic, arresting, neo-classical piece that tumbles and crashes like relentless waves against a shoreline whereas the lively pace of "We All Went Down With The Ship" is perhaps the most commercial composition on the album, juxtaposing the frenetic bass, moody melody and pounding rhythms of the verse with a tuneful, chiming, major key chorus.
"Parliament Of Rooks", featuring Kathryn Williams on backing vocals, is a chilling song that appears to be about imminent death and there's something about the descriptive nature of the lyrics that is really quite affecting; it's a whole horror film within a song! The poignant "Love Is A Minor Key" brings this short, but really quite remarkable piece of work to a close and really does leave you wanting much, much more; it's quite telling when the only criticism you can think of for an album is that it's too short. It's strange, but "Wanderlust", the album that Ed has written with Sophie Ellis Bextor has received far much more publicity and reviews than this, Ed's own work. Considering how utterly brilliant this album is, it's an injustice. It's certainly a bit of a bizarre pairing - I can't imagine there are many Ed Harcourt fans who are also fans of Sophie, however, if it brings Ed the success, recognition and wider audience he deserves, then it's all good. I severely doubt that it's half as good as this, though...
on 10 January 2014
So we're not even 2 weeks into 2014 and its time to get excited about a new album release. Ed's latest is more of a mini album available now as a download and physical media at the end of month.
Unlike the more acoustic work of late, this release takes the piano lead performance to but leverages rich orchestral and synth layers giving a more of widescreen drama.
The widescreen drama coupled with some really amazing lyrics from the horrors of war (Parliament of Rooks) "we were only doing what the captain said, we all went down with the ship" to the safest of love songs "love is like a minor key, a jaded weeping willow tree, it hooks its claws until blood is drawn".
Finally a bonus of Kathryn Williams on backing vocals you really can't go wrong.
Ed, we want more..... Play it again Sam
on 17 February 2014
He's done it again. It's had some great reviews too:
"Alluring." - The Independent ****
"Sensational." - The Sunday Times
"Time of Dust is bleaker than his past work, marrying a dark heart with epic hooks and choruses like a darker Elbow." - The Guardian ****
"Grand, cinematic flourishes" - The Daily Mail
"A thing of mournful, lachrymose majesty…" - EMusic, Album Chart #1
"This six-track mini-album is touched by darkness – it’s distorted, unsettling, untrustworthy almost, like a creepy character lurking in the shadows. But its nooks and crannies reveal weird and wonderful delights at every turn." - Clash
"A masterly lurch to the dark side by the multi-talented maestro" - Uncut
"Brooding, theatrical elegance with a glitchy twist… A dusky delight." - NME
"Ornate romantic balladry… curls around the listener like tendrils of smoke." - FT
"As warm and dark as the real ale he brews." The Times ****
"Part-time brewer of dark ales, full-time composer of dark tales." - Scottish Daily Express
"A gorgeous noirish set of cinematic songs with a bittersweet emotional core." - Telegraph
"Dark and haunting… the spectre of Jeff Buckley looming large. A great start to 2014." - Shortlist