Review: Ed Harcourt – Back Into the Woods
Published on March 30th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Ed Harcourt’s seventh album Back Into the Woods is a product of his walling up for six hours in Abbey Road studios with a guitar, an organ and a piano, with occasional elaboration in the form of Arnulf Lindner’s cello and his wife Gita’s violin. Sparse, fragile beauty is the order of the day, then, and how elegantly he does it.
First up is “The Cusp & The Wane”, a stirring number that name-checks such luminaries as Mozart and William Blake in addition to offering up such rousingly melancholic lines as “one more tear for the underdogs who never played the game” and reminding overall of the opening title track of The Divine Comedy‘s exquisite 2004 LP Absent Friends, before making way for the beguiling flutters of classical piano that “Hey Little Bruiser” has about its lullingly twinkly self.
This strong start continues with the soulfully Jeff Buckley-ish finger-picking of “Murmur in My Heart”, but while the quality levels don’t exactly nosedive, the singularity of mood begins to weary a little. The title track is a warmly embracing number, with its occasional hints at jazzy sparseness, before “Brothers and Sisters” brings about the change of pace that Back Into the Woods had started to cry out for: it’s a tremendous sort of gospel-psych number that blows the triteness of its own title and style clear out of the water, and the deal is sealed when Harcourt sings “Your ears are covered in the air raid shelter” Beach Boyishly during the vaguely theatrical middle eight.
“Last Will and Testament” recalls Buckley again, while “The Man That Time Forgot” signs the album off in Waits-ian fashion with grizzled, fireside laments like “I never meant to cause you pain / I’d like a chance to start again” and “please don’t remember me this way, my darling” punctuating the virtuoso ivory-tinkling to sublime effect. Ed Harcourt’s innate musicality remains a joy, but a little more variety next time wouldn’t go amiss.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!
Back Into the Woods is out now on CCCLX Music. For more information, please click here to visit the official Ed Harcourt website.