December 13, 2007

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Ed Harcourt, Until Tomorrow Then: The Best of Ed Harcourt
Astralwerks Records, Nov. 20
So here’s the Ed Harcourt best-of, and… who, you say? A limey music prodigy in the eyes of NME scenesters, Harcourt was accused of running out of ideas by his third LP or somewhere around there, but when one confines himself to a Badly Drawn Boy space with extra ’70s thrown in, the heard-it-befores do have a habit of coming fast and furious, the nature of the indie-pop beast in the first place. In the main, Harcourt’s a keyboard player, usually piano. To capture an oldies-Elton essence he allows the instruments to bleed over into each other’s tracks, and that works just fine if you’re of a mood to indulge in dentist-office pop with enough edge to do some damage.

The public dissing started around his 2004 LP, Strangers, and that’s where the album starts, with “Born in the 70s,” a ragtop-convertible-cruiser that’s hopeful, confused and as innocently postured as what the Dentyne-faced frizz-hairs used to do on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. The critical acclaim and Mercury Award nomination came in the wake of his 2001 debut Here Be Monsters, here represented first by “She Fell Into My Arms,” a spittle-flecked exercise in Monkees-vs-Bright-Eyes hipster bait, later by “Apple of My Eye”’s school-auditorium indie. “Black Dress,” again from Strangers, might have influenced Arcade Fire’s sense of chamber pop, a portent of Springsteen-ish things to come in that space. A- — E. W. S.