Ed Harcourt - From Every Sphere
Ed Harcourt won plenty of critical plaudits, as well as a Mercury prize nomination, for his fine debut album Here Be Monsters. Good as that was, though, it hardly prepared anyone for the sheer brilliance of this follow-up. Like many great albums, it's fuelled by personal grief - apparently the 25-year-old from Sussex has just had a traumatic breakup, and wrote most of From Every Sphere in the house of his recently-deceased grandmother. Thankfully, instead of wallowing in his angst, Harcourt has managed to turn it into an engrossing collection of lilting pop songs, combining the dark nihilism of Tom Waits with the melodic sensibility of Brian Wilson. With plenty of baroque arrangements and surreal animal imagery, it's an album shot through with childlike fears and anxieties. Throughout the darkness, however, the tousle-haired troubadour maintains a fairy tale-like sense of wonder that makes his music oddly comforting. In the public imagination, Harcourt is currently in danger of being lumped in with a host of other singer-songwriters, most of whose egos far outstrip their abilities. Don't be fooled - this man is the real deal.
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