Judging by the production of his fourth full-length album in six years, Ed Harcourt has an abundant amount of creativity and inspiration. To that end, Sussex singer-songwriter Ed really is as his press release describes him, “a collector of weird instruments and a musical whore.”
The U.S. is just now getting that fourth album, The Beautiful Lie, which had already been released two years ago in Ed’s native United Kingdom. Depending on your point of view, that delay probably would have gone unnoticed if it had continued.
Ed has been laden with the kind of musical talent that critics drool over; however, the 30-year-old hasn’t been able to please those same critics since they marked his potential from his debut EP Maplewood. His naysayers probably weren’t soothed by Lie, with its lack of immediate stimulation, but were still nonetheless delighted by another Harcourt LP.
“Whirlwind In D Minor” opens as a revelation of true feelings against the backdrop of a natural disaster. Any sense of tragedy is non-existent, especially with the Badly Drawn Boy-esque “Visit From The Dead Dog” that follows. That’s not to say Ed can’t be moving, as in the tale of a terminally ill man (“The Last Cigarette”), in the amazingly soulful tale of a miserable breakup (“Until Tomorrow Then”), and in the stunning duet with his wife, Gita (“Braille”).
Harcourt wanted to tell many stories with Lie, and ultimately that proved to be the album’s Achilles heel. Having too many stories diluted any clear course he wanted to take, highlighted by the staccato-like mixture of slow numbers and upbeat tracks. He could tear your heart with the slow-dance-till-midnight ballad (“Late Night Partner”) and just as quickly inject a chorus that will fill your head for days (“Revolution In The Heart”).
Lie acts more as a collection of stories. These are good stories, mind you, but the overall effect resembles a teeter-totter; bringing you fleeting (but repeating) bits of transcendence, elation, and terror (okay, the latter is a bit of an exaggeration), rather than the escalator to heaven we all craved.