Album Review: Ed Harcourt – Time of Dust (2014)


Ed Harcourt – Time Of Dust (2014)


Ed Harcourt’s 2013 album, “Back Into The Woods” received mixed reviews mainly because of the arrangement of the tracks, which concentrated primarily on the piano and vocals. Personally, I loved the album and particularly how minimalistic the approach was, but it was clearly not to everybody’s taste.  “Time Of Dust”, a “mini album” comprising of six tracks and weighing in at just shy of thirty minutes, features a fuller sound and a return to the kind of music long-standing Harcourt fans will more easily recognise, only with a grandiose bent, like a meeting of Elbow and Edgar Allen Poe.  It is a beautifully hypnotic album that has the power to move you and yet also makes you shift uncomfortably in your seat as it takes you out of your comfort zone into a world dealing with death, dirt and desire, utilising masterful, magnificent music and powerful lyrics that can only be described as sheer poetry.  This is the sound of Ed Harcourt at the very top of his game.

“Come Into My Dreamland”, a dark, almost eerie, composition kicks off the album, the music shimmering and glistening as Harcourt invites and tempts the object of his attention into his world; it’s a beautifully sensual song without directly mentioning sex or desire once and builds into something really quite magnificent.  The edgy paranoia of “In My Time Of Dust” features a drumbeat reminiscent of “Dummy”-era Portishead, a memorable melody line and an atmospheric feel that builds up to a spine-tingling crescendo – it’s really wonderful stuff.  “The Saddest Orchestra (It Only Plays For You)” is a dramatic, arresting, neo-classical piece that tumbles and crashes like relentless waves against a shoreline whereas the lively pace of “We All Went Down With The Ship” is perhaps the most commercial composition on the album, juxtaposing the frenetic bass, moody melody and pounding rhythms of the verse with a tuneful, chiming, major key chorus.

“Parliament Of Rooks”, featuring Kathryn Williams on backing vocals, is a chilling song that appears to be about imminent death and there’s something about the descriptive nature of the lyrics that is really quite affecting; it’s a whole horror film within a song!  The poignant “Love Is A Minor Key” brings this short, but really quite remarkable piece of work to a close and really does leave you wanting much, much more; it’s quite telling when the only criticism you can think of for an album is that it’s too short.  It’s strange, but “Wanderlust”, the album that Ed has written with Sophie Ellis Bextor has received far much more publicity and reviews than this, Ed’s own work.  Considering how utterly brilliant this album is, it’s an injustice.  It’s certainly a bit of a bizarre pairing – I can’t imagine there are many Ed Harcourt fans who are also fans of Sophie, however, if it brings Ed the success, recognition and wider audience he deserves, then it’s all good.  I severely doubt that it’s half as good as this, though…

About A.D.S.

You are reading the musings of a music-obsessed forty-something who was brought up on The Beatles, lived through Britpop and now spends his time in pursuit of the best music around. This 'blog gives me an outlet to write about the huge number of albums I buy and the many gigs I go to. All of the opinions expressed are my own and if you don't agree with me, then I understand - music is a very personal thing. I like to receive comments, especially if they're nice ones.
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