Release Date: Aug 19, 2016
Record label: Polydor
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
For the last 15 years, singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt has been quietly releasing gorgeously realized albums that have subsequently garnered him more of a cult following than full-blown commercial success or name recognition. This time frame is the most significant element of that statement: were Harcourt to have released any of his seven albums during the height of the singer-songwriter era, each would have been hailed as an undisputed classic, an ideal of the genre. Unfortunately, the majority of listeners in the 21st century have, for whatever reason, chosen to ignore these types of nuanced performers.
You know what the biggest problem with the white, male singer/songwriter these days is? They are almost wilfully boring. They will sacrifice personality on the altar of earnestness, lest someone think they might for one second enjoy their job of playing a piano/guitar and crooning for money. If they are not suffering then what they do is not art...for some reason.
The seventh studio album from Britain's Ed Harcourt, 2016's Furnaces, finds the dark-tinged singer/songwriter balancing the orchestral majesty of 2010's Lustre with the ruminative simplicity of 2013's Back into the Woods. With Lustre, Harcourt reached a creative apex, crafting an album of sweeping, vampiric splendor that found him at one with his life as a husband, father, and poetic journeyman. In contrast, Back into the Woods was a stripped-down affair, recorded in a single day and subjected to a protracted search for a label home.
From his Mercury-nominated debut, 2001’s Here Be Monsters, through to his most recent record, Time of Dust (2014), Ed Harcourt has consistently produced engaging, high quality albums. On his seventh, he has crafted his most fully realised, coherent and gratifying work. After the brief piano-led intro – leading you to believe this is a classic Ed Harcourt record – The World Is On Fire follows, giving a truer sense of the aesthetic and thematic intentions, setting the apocalyptic scene.
“I wanted to make a record that people can cry, fuck and fight to,” is how Ed Harcourt describes his aim for his seventh solo album. This raises a couple of questions – firstly, what kind of softlad would ever try rucking to orchestral indie rock? Secondly, who is the peculiar loverman that plumps for a Harcourt joint before sexy time? As for crying, well Furnaces is thankfully not nearly bad enough for that: instead it’s full of – oxymoron alert – gently apocalyptic pop with billowy choruses. Producer Flood has cloaked Harcourt’s doomy tales in a bass-heavy murk that doesn’t always to play to the record’s melodic strengths, but the likes of the title track have enough soulful energy to stop them from being swamped.