Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on May 19th 2008 2:00PM by Julia Simon
The supple-voxed singer-songwriter is known to veer toward high drama, with his tunes of misfortune earning him a Mercury Prize nod. On 'The Beautiful Lie,' Harcourt's narratives careen from musings on the moribund (a shell-shocked soldier sentenced to death and a suicidal girl appear in the acoustic-guitar weeper 'The Last Cigarette') to the undesirables (street junkies and prostitutes in a poppy piano ballad recorded with the Magic Numbers, 'Revolution in the Heart') to lovers awaiting the apocalypse ('Until Tomorrow Then,' 'Whirlwind in D Minor.')
Despite these doomy themes, this set of songs hits home for Harcourt, literally: He recorded them in his parents' house and on an heirloom piano. "We had drums in my folks' hallway and did everything analog except the strings. And I used my grandmother's 1917 piano," he explains. Then, he adds with a laugh, "I wanted to come back to my roots, especially because my other albums were even more excessive."
These sad-sack ruminations ultimately gave Harcourt something entirely new to groan about -- his former label. It's taken three years for 'The Beautiful Lie' to see Stateside release. "They just decided not to release it here, and there wasn't anything I could do about it," he says. Though Harcourt is now signed to Dovecote in the U.S., EMI did poach a few as-yet-unreleased tunes from the 'Lie' sessions. "We did more songs for the album, but four of them are owned by the label. Maybe I can break into EMI and get them back," he says with a wink. "It's been done before."