The next batch of British pop has ventured to the New World and is markedly superior to some predecessors, despite less fanfare. This should change however, if Ed Harcourt’s talent is matched by sales of his debut, full-length album, “Here Be Monsters.”

A prolific musician in his twenties, Harcourt boasts a catalogue numbering hundreds of songs. “I’ve got another 400 songs,” he said in press material, “I’d say about a hundred of them are shit. But wait until you hear the other 300!”

Harcourt’s album is primarily a collection of ballads, but with interesting shifts in narration and focus complimenting blends of several musical styles. The predominant pace of both vocals and rhythm is gentle, with evident influence from jazz and blues.

At times the musician sounds like he’s speaking at a near-whisper and seldom raises his tone beyond that of a loud conversation. This under used technique adds another dimension to the sounds of the album and makes boisterous singing far more noticeable.

In the song “God Protect Your Soul,” the artist whispers twice “my heartache is my mistake” and then elevates his tone to cry, “I need to build a wall around me!” By changing the nature of his voice, Harcourt switches rapidly from reflection to reaction.

The music jumps to a different level too, from soothing melody propelled mostly by piano to percussion and wind instruments underscoring his emotive cry. There is not enough music in the mainstream which can convey this sort of power.

With true creativity, Harcourt does not rest idly on repetitive themes. His songs can be quite peaceful or equally as serene, but compelled more by melancholy. The tone of “Wind Through Trees” is comparable to a breeze fluttering leaves. Yet, the breeze is in fact a murdered father haunting his assailant, and if you listen closely the narrative will haunt you.

“Beneath the Heart of Darkness” begins with relaxed music for an entire minute, which is joined by lyrics painting a strange picture of sporadic artillery. By the third minute of the song, a gradual hard-rock element overtakes the wistful contemplation of the first part of the song.

It is both drastic and energetic, as clearly understandable lyrics are overshadowed by strong guitar chords with a sound reminiscent of a helicopter’s vicious blades coming over the listener.

“I’m on a special mission / for us who have a break / we’ll climb the corporate walls,” Harcourt pledges in the song “Shanghai.” He then adds the wager that “they’ll be yielding when the castle falls.”

“The world is upside down and birds fly backwards” in “Here Be Monsters.” The album title alone is a remarkably witty explanation of where the artist is coming from and where he has been. Cartographers of antiquity would label far off and unknown lands with “here be monsters.” They did so because it was not known what perils dwelled there.

“We’ll have a fresh new start” Harcourt concludes in “Shanghai.” The first step has been made into a brave new world, the artistry of Ed Harcourt.

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