New album Time of Dust is released worldwide via digital stores on January 6th 2014. CD release follows on Jan 20th. Vinyl in February.
It’s World Book Day…
What is your favourite book and why?
Ed says: ‘Master & Margarita’ by Bulgakov. It’s a boomerang, it keeps coming back to me, it’s so complex and addictive. It seems very exotic and alien in some ways, I sometimes wonder whether it would have the same effect if I read it in it’s original language. It’s a book I keep coming back to as there’s so much to explore.
Back Into the Woods was released a year ago today. Thank you to everyone who bought a copy and helped to spread the word about the release.
In case you missed it, here is Ed’s guide to the album:
1. The Cusp & The Wane
Apparently the phrase ‘underdog’ originated from the practice of bear-baiting, a horrible, ignoble betting ‘sport’ . The underdog would attack from below the flank rather than topside like the top dog, near the throat, thus condemning it to a more likely demise. So please try and remember these poor bears when you say, ‘I’m gunning for the underdog, me’. Raise your ear trumpets to the sound of the daunted chorus, for the creators giveth lest the destroyers taketh away! It’s in Db major and was written during a rare weekend of solitude.
2. Hey Little Bruiser
I have been planning a mariachi album for a while but the Bronx got there first. However, I will not let their preemptive strike deter my enthusiasm for this project. I have an assembled troupe who are currently waiting for me in Puerta Vallarta, awaiting a smoke signal as I write. Oh wait that’s American Indians. Sorry. Man the guitarrons and maracas amigos! As Nathan Barley succinctly coined “totally Mexico”. I actually wrote this because I was obsessed with Willy DeVille’s version of ‘Hey Joe’. But then it sounded ridiculous, especially with midi synth trumpets. Luckily, after a brief languish in ‘song prison’, I managed to set it on the right path and the rest is history. Arnulf [Lindner] plays cello, Gita [Harcourt-Smith, Harcourt’s wife] plays violin.
3. Wandering Eye
When I was young I really wanted an eye-patch. I think it was because of John Heard in Cutter’s Way (not David Bowie - I know, weird eh?). Think about the benefits of eye-patches, they signify experience, danger, mystery and recklessness; you wear one and you’re instantly the hushed talking point at some boring party. I want to be that guy at this party who sits alone in the corner, staring imaginary flying daggers at all the guests with his one unblinking eye. This song is not about that.
4. Murmur In My Heart
According to World Of Warcraft, ‘Murmur’ is the “primordial essence of sound”, a very powerful big, bad elemental lord, who’s also known as ‘Destroyer Of Worlds’. I promise you, I don’t actually know this. I don’t play World Of Warcraft until 7am. Seriously, you have to believe me, I have never played this game. I’m more into Dungeons And Dragons. The dichotomy of love is the most infamous, inimitable game I have played, way more akin to Battleships than chess in my opinion. The king’s a bit crap in chess, isn’t he?
5. Back Into The Woods
I remember the first four lines of this song coming to me as I stood in Edgware Road underground station. I repeatedly screamed them out loud until the train arrived so I wouldn’t forget, thus metaphysically etching the words into the back of my sieve-like mind and ensuring that no-one sat next to me for the brief journey to King’s Cross. It’s nice to have a lair you can slink back into, like that Guinness advert about evolution but in reverse. Back into the primordial soup boys!
6. Brothers & Sisters
My elder brothers once trapped me in a lift for ages in the mid-90’s. It was only one floor, but I could see their evil, grinning faces through the small window of each door. I am still slowly masterminding my quiet, deadly revenge. A phrase that I hear a lot is: “oh we’re like brothers/sisters, we fight all the time”. Well those days may certainly be over. FOR THEM.
7. The Pretty Girls
Do you think film directors ever get a bit annoyed with the people who make their trailers, when they suddenly realise that the trailer commissioned is actually better than their film and there’s nothing they can do about it? Similar to when people voted Liberal Democrat and then got the Conservatives. I was trying to invoke a little spirit of early Elvis Costello or something when I wrote this but then it became a ballad. Again. So many ballads, so little time.
8. Last Will & Testament
I went to see a wonderful new play by Alan Bennett last week and there was a line that stuck with me, “decay is a kind of progress”. It’s interesting that some people need priests by their side when at death’s door. I’m not sure if I could handle that to be honest, I think I’d rather have a big party with champagne and Belgian chocolates and tap-dancers and moon-walking wolves and fireworks and my family all singing Queen’s greatest hits. No clowns though. Clowns bad.
9. The Man That Time Forgot
Here’s a thought. Have you ever wondered what Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen or Mark Lanegan or Barry White sounded like when they were a kid? Seriously. Could you imagine Glenn Danzig with a squeaky voice saying “please sir, can I have my ball back” to his next door neighbour? It really freaks me out. Sometimes I can’t sleep from thinking about it. This is the last song on the album, so yes be thankful that I am now releasing you from the clutches of my transient footnotes. Thanks for reading.
Time of Dust isn’t the only Ed Harcourt-related record out this week. The new Sophie Ellis-Bextor LP, which is currently in the top 5 of the album chart in the UK, is now in shops. Here’s what Ed had to say about his involvement:
In April 2013, I went into the studio with Sophie Ellis-Bextor and produced her new record, Wanderlust, which we also wrote together. It was one of my favourite recording experiences; we had 10 days in State of the Ark in Richmond with an elite squad of musicians and laid down 11 tracks, pretty much 2nd or 3rd take which is how I like it and that was that. I’m incredibly proud of this record, I’m sure some of you know she was in the final of Strictly Come Dancing which was very exciting, I wore my sequinned mankini for every episode! I played with her yesterday on Radio4’s Woman’s Hour (available on iPlayer) and then at the Bush Hall. I will also be performing at her Union Chapel show in April.
"Time of Dust is bleaker than his past work, marrying a dark heart with epic hooks and choruses like a darker Elbow." - The Guardian ****
"Grand, cinematic flourishes" - The Daily Mail
"A thing of mournful, lachrymose majesty…" - EMusic, Album Chart #1
"This six-track mini-album is touched by darkness – it’s distorted, unsettling, untrustworthy almost, like a creepy character lurking in the shadows. But its nooks and crannies reveal weird and wonderful delights at every turn." - Clash
"A masterly lurch to the dark side by the multi-talented maestro" - Uncut
"Brooding, theatrical elegance with a glitchy twist… A dusky delight." - NME
"Ornate romantic balladry… curls around the listener like tendrils of smoke." - FT
"As warm and dark as the real ale he brews." The Times ****
"Part-time brewer of dark ales, full-time composer of dark tales." - Scottish Daily Express
"A gorgeous noirish set of cinematic songs with a bittersweet emotional core." - Telegraph
"Dark and haunting… the spectre of Jeff Buckley looming large. A great start to 2014." - Shortlist
"Mature songwriting of the very best – a skilful structure of light and dark, melodic and lyrical surprises to confound and delight. - Louder Than War
"…taster for things to come. Yet as aperitifs go, it’s pretty satisfying." - MusicOMH
The above photo is by Steve Gullick, and features on the reverse of the CD.
Cover of The Jesus And Mary Chain’s Sometimes Always to feature on new Buffetlibre/Oxfam EP
Ed and Catherine A.D. - who you may have seen opening for Mr Harcourt on tour in 2013 and singing with him at Glastonbury & End of the Road - have recorded vocals for a special duet to raise money for Oxfam. It’s a cover of the classic Jesus & Mary Chain tune ‘Sometimes Always’ with music by Spanish producers/bloggers/DJs Buffetlibre. Have a listen over on The Quietus and then pick up the charity compilation.
'Parliament of Rooks' features guest vocals from Kathryn Williams and is taken from the new mini-album Time of Dust, which is available digitally worldwide on January 6th 2014 - you can pre-order yours on iTunes here. The CD release follows in the UK on Jan 20th (delayed slightly due to issues at the pressing plant/distributors over the festive season), pre-order it online now from Piccadilly Records, Amazon and Rough Trade. And the vinyl release follows on February 10th. The first single from the album ‘Love is a Minor Key’ is also released on Feb 10th.
ED HARCOURT’S NEW YEAR MESSAGE
Well hello there.
I’m sure some of you are savvy enough to know what’s going on, 24/7, at this exact point in time, right now, ears burning, eyes twitching, soul dissipating into the darker realms of smartphone/laptop/i-Fad hell. I’m guilty as hell too. I’ve been trying to ween myself off Contract Zombie Killers 2 on my phone and write some actual songs. Proving difficult. So anyway stop doing whatever you’re doing on some other applications and pay attention!
I had soup for lunch today. It was good.
I’m about to check the white label vinyl of ‘Time of Dust’. This approval process is something I have done since 2000, it’s a ritual de habitual (great Jane’s Addiction album check it out) that will never die. I’m proud to say that pretty much every record I’ve had released has righteously warranted a vinyl edition & I’m hoping you’ll like this little bridge I made with Dave Izumi Lynch in the late summer, to the next evil beast which I’m hopefully making in March with the legendary enigma that is Flood. I thought I’d tell you because Beyonce already beat me to the whole ‘don’t tell anyone’ marketing campaign and since that lunchtime soup I’ve been twerking off the walls with enthusiasm & fervour.
So let’s start with all the amazing people I’ve met and worked with this year; first up is the fantastic Kathryn Williams (http://kathrynwilliams.co.uk). I am so proud to be part of her record, Crown Electric; you could do no wrong in going out and buying this album ASAP. She’s such a brilliant writer, devastatingly prolific with a terrifying quota of quality. We wrote 2 songs in 24 hours and they thankfully made the cut, she wrote some of the lyrics in my bath. I was not in the bath but downstairs making tea. She’s very kindly returned the favour and is singing on ‘Parliament Of Rooks’ (listen above) on Time Of Dust.
Then there’s been Mark Rae & Steve Christian AKA Rae & Christian; their album is a sprawling opus of psychedelia and beats and more song-driven than ever, I had the pleasure of singing a song called ‘The Ballad of Roza Shanina’, about a female 21 year old Russian sniper from the 2nd World War, you know, the usual shit. But seriously they are mad geniuses. It also features my wife Gita on a song called ‘Still Here’ she wrote with them, a lovely song to hear in the early hours and also Masta Ace, Foster the People and many others, you should really check out this record.
Then there’s been the magnificent Laura Jansen, we wrote a song last year called ‘A Call to Arms’, that features on ‘Queen of Elba’, she’s so good live, please go and see her when she comes back to the UK; I can’t wait to write with her again (hint hint)
In April 2013 I went into the studio with Sophie Ellis-Bextor and produced her forthcoming record, Wanderlust, which we also wrote together. It was one of my favourite recording experiences; we had 10 days in State of the Ark in Richmond with an elite squad of musicians and laid down 11 tracks, pretty much 2nd or 3rd take which is how I like it and that was that. I’m incredibly proud of this record, I’m sure some of you know she’s in the final of SCD which is very exciting, I’ve been wearing my sequinned mankini for every episode. I’ll be playing with her at the Bush Hall in January 2014 and also Union Chapel in April.
I also wrote a film score for an independent US film called ‘Like Sunday Like Rain’ directed by Frank Whaley with a nice little cameo from GreenDay’s Billy Joe Armstrong; worked with Gabriel Yared who composed scores for English Patient & Betty Blue; and collaborated with my friends Blamma!Blamma! & Kristina Train on a dance track called ‘Zsa Zsa’.
There was the BeckSong Reader at the Barbican which I MD’d with David Coulter, that was so much fun especially getting to sing with Beck which was something I never thought would happen. There was WIZZAAAAAARD BOUUUUNCE. I am in process of writing with Ren Harvieu, Fem Fel & a great new singer called Kate Miller; played lots of festivals and toured a little bit of Europe. Yes that is something that’s been chewing my ear, I have not come back to a lot of places and I know some of you have been patiently waiting to see me live again or for the first time; as I have not much budget or a major label pimping me out it’s hard for me to tour and get out to see you but I’m working on changing that. Even if I don’t tour, the music won’t and can’t stop until imminent death, even in the crippling throes of writer’s block I always feel positive because I know something will eventually emerge, like a little turtle from it’s egg in the sand. Have I missed anything out? Oh the beer. That beer. You know all about that right? Oh yeah that album called Back Into The Woods, god I am so over that.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘jeez Ed’s being a little ‘chirpy’ isn’t he?’
Perhaps but I am. I am usually a misanthropic bastard but to be honest you’ll hear that in the new records.
Wait…you probably already know this from the old records.
I’m also looking forward to ageing disgracefully like some senile delinquent, once I’ve shaken off this gargoyle that resides in my chest, however the white hairs that are emerging in my beard (thanks kids) everyday are most distressing although more about that later.
On a sadder note, it seems to have been a very hard year for so many in this world, too many horrible things to mention. I don’t want to dwell on it at all as it’s very distressing, especially when it’s to do with children. I’ve mentioned these links before but please click on them if you have the time or money as they will always need our help, I’m sure you’re already aware & it’s much appreciated by the amazing people who work with these organizations (even if it’s a small something it makes a difference):
On January 6th 2014, Ed Harcourt’s new album Time of Dust will be available worldwide digitally. UK release of the CD follows on the 20th January, but you can pre-order it online now from Piccadilly Records, Amazon and Rough Trade. Alternatively, please nag your local independent record store to ensure they have a copy for you on the day of release. The vinyl release follows in February.