Ed Harcourt | Lustre (Piano Wolf)

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Some songs are nearly just Harcourt and his piano, a sound at which he excels.

Ed Harcourt’s a master of symphonic pop. His songs swell with strings and keys, his voice slipping easily into a gentle falsetto, his words well-considered and storylike. Lustre, his fifth full-length, is awash in his signature strengths. The title track opens the disc, Harcourt’s voice stark against a wall of piano and strings. “Haywired” continues in the same vein, sounding very much like an old-fashioned torch song. Harcourt switches things up a bit with “Church of No Religion,” which recalls British indie rockers Elbow. The depth is appreciated, its mix of sounds making for a more well-rounded album.
“Heart of a Wolf” begins with Harcourt’s filtered vocals, horns and backing vocals by what sounds like a female choir. It comes across as an old-fashioned, almost Vaudeville-esque number, veering toward the dark side with its ominous keys and Harcourt’s gritty, distorted vocals; it’s also reminiscent of my favorite Harcourt track, “Ghost Writer,” on From Every Sphere, my favorite album of his. With “Do As  I Say Not as I Do,” Lustre shifts gears once again; this one’s a sugary, upbeat pop song, rapidfire piano keeping a speeded up pace.  Then it’s a step back, as “Killed by the Morning Sun” brings the tempo down; it’s nearly just Harcourt and his piano, a sound at which he excels. “Lachrymosity” (it means “weeping, or inclined to weep”; I had to look it up) maintains this barebones aesthetic for another song before giving way to another toe-tapper in “A Secret Society.” Here, Harcourt’s voice recalls Damien Kulash of OK Go, a compliment in my book. Backing “sha-la-la-la”s remind you that ’50s pop is not dead.
“When the Lost Don’t Want to Be Found” is church-like, grandiose and epic with piano, bells and angelic backing vocals. After “So I’ve Been Told” lights that old torch aflame once more, the disc closes with “Fears of a Father,” this one with its own cacophony of angels.
Though Lustre doesn’t really deliver anything new or groundbreaking, it’s still a solid listen, and a worthwhile addition to your Harcourt library. B | Laura Hamlett
RIYL: Elbow, Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake

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