Review - Strangers

Artist: Ed Harcourt

The CD format ruined the standard two-sided flow of an album, forcing artists to front-load their albums with their ear-catchiest tunes. It also can mean the gimmicks are all up front – which is exactly the case with British songster Ed Harcourt's third album. "The Storm Is Coming" is lush and anthemic, stoked with feedback wails and Harcourt's most flamboyant vocal pass. "Born in the '70s" pulls Ben Folds' schticky chain. "This One's for You" starts the shift toward modesty with a shuffling Zombies/Colin Blunstone tint. It isn't until the pump organ-fueled "Something To Live For" that Harcourt relaxes and allows his gifted melodic sense to work naturally. The pressure's off for the album's second half (once upon a time called "Side Two"). "The Trapdoor" is a pastoral acoustic number. "Loneliness" and "Open Book" channel The Smiths' sweet misery. For better and worse, Harcourt is a strong songwriter destined for B-sides.

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