Album Review: Ed Harcourt – Back Into The Woods
I have to say that I fell in love with the music of Ed Harcourt quite late in the game. When I was asked to review his last record, 2010’s Lustre I wasn’t too sure what I was getting myself into. Though I had never heard any of Ed’s music prior to that point the word ‘intense’ always seemed to show its face when his music was described to me by others. I would say that the word is fairly true to Ed’s music and along with that discovery I grew a deeper appreciation for his style. I’m a pop boy through and through so let’s just get that out there. Though I do love acoustic acts and can be persuaded outside of my comfort zone from time to time it was hard for me at the time to adopt an adoration for styles like Ed’s. I suppose I can thank Ed for helping me to branch out into other styles as deep and ‘intense’ as his.
Lustre had so much within it and it certainly set the bar pretty high for future releases from him. Fast forward a couple of years from that release and Ed is preparing for the release of his latest career installment, his 6th studio album Back Into The Woods. The cover alone will give a fair indication of what to expect from this new record – Ed is all about the serious music and that seriousness, much like previous releases from the song-smith, weighs heavy throughout this addition to his growing catalogue.
Amongst the inclusions he offers us here there are some that standout more so than others. That’s not to say the track listing has dipping moments within it but that some songs just naturally stand out here. Of these the opening The Cusp & The Wane is certainly a focal point of Back Into The Woods. Lyrically poetic, it is a fantastic starting point to the new record. While a piano leads Ed through the brief intro to the record Ed’s lyrical genius is put in warmth of the spotlight with lines like “Lets hear it for the underdogs who skipped the hall of fame, one more cheer for the underdogs who never played the game”.
Diving further into the record we are met with a blues-tinged gem in the form of Murmur In My Heart. Echoed vocals and a raw instrumentation, this one is a gem on Back Into The Woods. The tone is mellow and the rhythm slow however its style is what makes this one a memorable number filling in the centre of the album.
Brothers and Sisters puts the microscope over the family unit with an anthemic, defiant chorus while an organ provides a subtle backbone to the track and for Ed to get lost in the moment while the following The Pretty Girls provides a whimsical piano lick to the album as the keys dance around Ed’s passionate vocals as he declares “pretty girls always fall for the baddest boys”.
The instrumentation of the whole album is very raw and stripped back but this allows us to listen attentively to the lyrical content of the record and Ed’s powerful and emotive vocal skills that really do shine on this album, probably more so than previous releases by the song-smith. It would be wrong to say that this record is a more mature album than his previous offerings, his style in general is a lot more mature than most musicians out there these days but Back Into The Woods does feel like it is pushing itself in that direction nonetheless. It’s a masterful and well written record with a tight production and offers further justification, in case previous record hadn’t, to the musicians 2001 Mercury Prize nod.