Time of Dustby Ed Harcourt
The English singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt operates in the kind of literate tradition of living legends like Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave. But Harcourt never attains the dark boudoir poetry of the former or the deranged mythomania of the latter. And this is largely because he is less willing to privilege the word as a musical tool. Which isn’t to say that lyrically Harcourt slacks off. Particularly on “We All Went Down With The Ship”, you can imagine him burning up a notepad with perfectly poised lines like: “The kamikaze pilots and the virgin assassins were told they would reach paradise / Death is the order, they were following orders, you can see it in their zealous eyes”. But the former Mercury Prize nominee never sounds as if he’s shoehorning a clever line into an unwilling meter. What this gives his songs in structural consistency is offset by the loss of excitement that comes from the loosely stitched screeds of other word wizards. And although Harcourt stretches some serious songwriting chops on these tracks, it usually feels as if he struggles to escape the formulas of the genre. Still, “The Saddest Orchestra” and “Love Is A Minor Key” show the emotional force that he can bring to bear with the way he swells melodies and finds cutting phrases to puncture the veneer of his fairly traditional tonal style. Definitely an album for fans of the genre, but maybe not quite enough to sway skeptics on a kind of music so focused on interiority.