Ed Harcourt – Here Be Monsters

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

Ed Harcourt’s first full-length album (after last year’s mini-album debut MAPLEWOOD) is a cornucopia of sounds and melodies, shot through with the singer-songwriter’s sense of accidental occasion.

Ranging from upbeat jaunts (SHE FELL INTO MY ARMS, SHANGHAI) to piano ballads dripping with melancholy and strings (THOS CRIMSON TEARS, WIND THROUGH THE TREES), this the sound of a soul laid bare, a man learning to see the strength in his own vulnerability. Harcourt and producer Tim Holmes (of Death In Vegas) have crafted a collection of warm, bittersweet songs where mistakes have been left in the mix and his voice is pushed to the limit. APPLE OF MY EYE was even recorded while he was suffering from a nasty bout of bronchitis.

With the ever-present piano and double bass, and occasional brass and strings, HERE BE MONSTERS fuses elements of jazz, blues, gospel and folk to its rock grooves, resulting in a delightful, occasionally haunting, meeting of Tom Waits, Mercury Rev and Radiohead.

Perhaps the most stunning track, the seven-minute long BENEATH THE HEART OF DARKNESS (recorded in Buffalo with Flaming Lips/Mogwai producer Dave Fridmann) takes things to a whole new level. Thrown in at the middle of the record, its initial fragility descends into a paranoid whirlwind of muffled noise and clanking machinery before levelling out in a ghostly conclusion. Harcourt wrote it about the big, broken old boiler in his house, which he says he saw as an accurate metaphor for how he was feeling at the time.

Ambitious, varied and never lacking the ability to touch you, HERE BE MONSTERS displays an encouraging sense of adventure and shows the 23 year-old Ed Harcourt is clearly one to watch.

5 stars