Nice Music Group
Take one part Jeff Buckley, one part Rufus Wainwright, and one part Tom Waits and you might have something approaching the prodigious talent that is Ed Harcourt. On his first album in four years, the (formerly?) prolific 32-year-old Brit proves that he didn’t peak too early. On the contrary, Lustre demonstrates that he’s still got years of great stuff ahead of him.
Co-produced by Harcourt and Ryan Hadlock, the record is a diverse showcase of numerous styles. It’s a step up from 2006’s The Beautiful Lie, which was an accomplished record but a bit too downcast and claustrophobic for my tastes. It had few of the pure pop thrills of tracks like “Loneliness” from 2004’s Strangers.
Which isn’t to say that Lustre “rocks” by any means. But the sound of Harcourt opening up his sound and his heart makes this one of his most enjoyable records all the way through.
The opening title track has a great build to it from its morning-sun-coming-up intro to the disco strings that kick in with a little more than a minute to go. But it is Harcourt’s remarkably assured, inspired, optimistic vocal performance that makes the song.
Melancholy mellotron kicks off “Haywired,” which with a line like “I know many different people that keep on falling in love with the idea of love” pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Harcourt.
He’s equally impressive on the show-stopping, heart-tugging ballad that concludes the record. “The fears of a father don’t scare me/ I’m ready to love,” he sings.
In between those tunes, “Church of No Religion” has a subtle adult pop groove that reminds me of Neil Finn. “Heart of a Wolf” on the other hand is Harcourt exercising all of his gravelly-voiced Tom Waits fantasies. “Lachrymosity” is Harcourt in Rufus Wainwright cabaret piano pop mode. “Do as I Say Not as I Do” wouldn’t sound out of place next to Prefab Sprout, Spandau Ballet, and Aztec Camera on an ’80s music mix. The laid back vibe of “Killed by the Morning Sun” makes you yearn to hear Harcourt duet with fellow Brit Beth Orton.
All comparisons aside, the piano and harmonium ballad “So I’ve Been Told” is pure Harcourt, featuring another expressive vocal performance. “And I walk the streets barefoot and brooding/ Smashing the windows of neighbors I know/ The banks of the river are quiet and soothing/ Caught by the lust of the undertow,” he sings.
After a four-year break, Harcourt sounds remarkably rejuvenated on Lustre. It’s a romantic collection of songs that begins the next phase of his musical career in fine style and promises an even brighter future.
Ed Harcourt: www.edharcourt.com