Think about what you do in a working day – maybe sitting at your desk on Facebook or deliberating over that budget. It’s a tough life.
For Ed Harcourt, he spent less than that working day making one of the most beautiful, heart-breakingly tender albums of the last year, if not decade, if not ever.
In just six small hours, Harcourt locked himself away in Abbey Road studios with a guitar, a piano, an organ, a lone violinist and his haunting, breathy, tragic voice. In those short few hours, he managed to create something that will make you stop and listen.
Opener ‘The Cusp and the Wane’ could cut through the nosiest of rooms with just its few chords while you can hear Harcourt’s torture in ‘Wandering Eye’ as if he were singing right at you, baring his very soul.
While the recording was just six hours and the writing just a few weeks more, it feels like these songs could have taken years to pen – or at least been based on years of wonder, self-loathing, regret, love and family. Harcourt takes you on the most personal of journeys and brings beauty out of his beasts.
‘She’s the buzz from my guitar, she’s the mummur in my heart’ he sings, snatching the award for tear-inducing romance from the likes of King Creosote, Glen Campbell of even Brian Wilson. You just believe it.
Yes, it’s very stripped down, but Harcourt’s voice creates the atmosphere and all the depth you need. It's different to his other studio albums in content, but, even with a mellower tone and direction, it's still his wonderful blend of pop folk, just with added melancholy. On occasion, you can even hear the Harcourt-isms in your head and what the song would sound like if recorded with a full band.
It’s fair to say he’s had a rocky past, occasionally on the wrong side of all the stuff that’s bad for us, but he always manages to pull himself back from the brink and here, with melodies as simple as nursery rhymes wrapped in blues, you journey with him through despair and come out the other end smiling. 'The man that time forgot', played on the richest of pianos, ends the album on a solemn note and with maybe the starkest of his lyrics, 'Everyone I love, has mostly given up' - you're left just hoping, praying, that he's been forgiven.
This album skips by in the blink of an eye and you’ll find yourself listening to it over and over – when you’re happy, sad, angry, lonely or euphoric. It's a gem for Harcourt fans and the sweetest of introductions for new listeners.
Words by Gemma Hampson