Ed Harcourt’s sophomore release, From Every Sphere, is a paradoxical package. The songs are all at once filled with light buoyant melodies, yet heavily orchestrated; exuberantly sung, but with dark undercurrents and sinister imagery. Harcourt’s unorthodox instrumentations are reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright’s debut self-titled album; however, the result here is a much more slick and polished album with touches of exoticism in each track.
The album begins with the simply orchestrated jangly and catchy “Bittersweetheart,” but quickly progresses to more interesting fare with darkly exotic instrumentation; a squeaky accordion opens “All of Your Days Will Be Blessed,” and anvil percussion and a sampled voice appear in “Ghostwriter.” Following in stark contrast is “The Birds Will Sing For Us,” probably the most morose pop love ballad that you can imagine, ending in references to death. Bright piano and guitar riffs and a clean and catchy melody appear amidst lyrics of deep resignation and sadness. The quirky “Undertaker Strut” is where Harcourt’s dark side rears its magnificent head in full show- distorted vocals and dark imagery in the lyrics make the song catchy and truly creepy.
The catchiest track on the album is “Watching the Sun Come Up,” where his dark and destructive imagery surfaces again in the lyrics, but this time with a more hopeful tone. Harcourt’s voice is endearing here, despite when it cracks and narrowly misses high notes. The rest of the album after this track is denouement, with two delicate numbers: “Fireflies Take Flight,” a sort of off-kilter lullaby, replete with the same bizarre and dark imagery (“the bones of dinosaurs” and “wolves under your bed,”) of the rest of the album, and “Metaphorically Yours,” an unusually sweet homage to love that avoids sounding false and saccharine.
Some may criticize the album for being overly dreary, and in fact, many of the tracks are. If you are only listening to some of the songs while driving, you will probably miss many of the carefully chosen and exotic instrumentations in “Bleed a River Deep,” “Jetsetter,” and even the title track. Mistaking these for uninspired ballads is understandable, but they grow on the listener after a few spins on the CD player.
Joe Henry – Scar
Rufus Wainwright – Poses
Sondre Lerche – Faces Down