Ah, singer/songwriters and their quirks. Ed Harcourt, who plays about 39 instruments, wrote all the music, sang all the songs and entirely lacked creative backing on From Every Sphere , is a good example of “quirky” – I think the title is a clue as to where he finds his influences. The album places the relentlessly peppy next to the gloomily poetic, which is a shame, as it is most affecting when there’s (mostly) just him and his piano, wailing away.
Unfortunately, a good chunk of the album is extravagantly produced wacky noise a la Spacehog, with a twist of lounge to weird things up. Track the first, “Bittersweetheart” (ooh, clever) opens like a Muppet singalong, but does redeem itself by the end. Even more grating is the third song, “Ghostwriter,” which is the retarded cousin of “Dueling Banjos,” “Dueling Casio Keyboards.”
There are some good ‘uns here too. No. 7, “Bleed a River Deep” is a melancholy jazz-influenced piece that seems to be about unrequited love. It’s followed by “Fireflies Take Flight,” which has some beautiful guitar and piano, and showcases Ed’s vocal talents. These two songs together have done the near unthinkable: lifted the trombone out of the limbo of supermarket Muzak and into actual music.
A bit of restraint would have gone a long way for Harcourt, but when his sense of excess works, the result is phenomenal. And – damn – it does on the standout track, the funereal “From Every Sphere.” The disc is practically worth buying just for that – or would have been, before file sharing rendered the practice of buying an album for just one song as extinct as the carrier pigeon.
[Owen Salisbury would like to inform you of some little-known Swedish geographical trivia. Yay!]