Ed Harcourt: Strangers

Ed Harcourt wants to be tough but he can’t help it—his heart is right out there on his sleeve. His new album, Strangers, is just now getting its US release after several months of worldwide availability (see an earlier Blogcritics review by one of our Italiian correspondents), and it’s the evidence that our Ed is a softie—it’s an album full of shimmering gentle love songs with an occasional hard rocking ringer thrown in.

That’s not to say that he doesn’t have a sharp edge to his tongue. He gets off some good one-liners to the tenderest of his melodies, “This One’s For You,” including the fine “I’d wear you on my arm like a brand new scar.” (Try that one as a pick up line sometimes.) Sometimes it works, as in “This One’s for You”; sometimes the images get a little thick, as in “Loneliness.”

Harcourt apparently isn’t totally comfortable with the intimacy he offers on songs like “Something to Live For.” The listener is ultimately kept at bay by gestures like the rocking “The Storm is Coming,” which is a fine song but seems out of place here, and the bitter “Only Happy When You’re High,” a US-release only bonus track. Maybe Harcourt’s getting the rocking out of his system on other projects like his new band Wild Boar will lead to a less hedged performance on his next album. I’ll be listening.

This post originally appeared on BlogCritics.