The seventh studio album from Britain's Ed Harcourt, 2016's Furnaces, finds the dark-tinged singer/songwriter balancing the orchestral majesty of 2010's Lustre with the ruminative simplicity of 2013's Back into the Woods. With Lustre, Harcourt reached a creative apex, crafting an album of sweeping, vampiric splendor that found him at one with his life as a husband, father, and poetic journeyman. In contrast, Back into the Woods was a stripped-down affair, recorded in a single day and subjected to a protracted search for a label home. Produced by acclaimed British producer Flood (PJ Harvey, U2, Nine Inch Nails), Furnaces is a much more robust, though no less soul-searching, production than Back into the Woods, and showcases Harcourt's longstanding knack for crafting bold, baroque rock anthems centered around his yearning baritone vocals, classical-inflected piano, and bluesy guitar. Perhaps not surprisingly, the album brings to mind the similarly inclined work of such luminaries as Nick Cave and the Wolfgang Press, both of whom collaborated with Flood on albums in the '80s and '90s. Harcourt has always evinced a debt to such alt-rock icons, and his choice to pair with Flood on Furnaces is a serendipitous one. And while standout cuts like the driving "Loup Garou" and the fractured, electronica-tinged "You Give Me More Than Love" wouldn't sound out of place on a '90s Garbage album, the album never feels too retro. Tracks like the yearning "The World Is on Fire" and the jazzy, gospel-inflected "There Is a Light Below" are swooning, gorgeously arranged productions full of echoey vocal harmonies, fuzz-tone guitars, exotic percussion accents, and other evocative production touches. Elsewhere, Harcourt achieves a pyrrhic majesty drawing upon the noir-ish style of Portishead with the epically romantic "Last of Your Kind" and the gothy loverman ballad "Immoral." Similarly, the loping "Occupational Hazard" and the militaristically epic "Dionysus" have a kinetic flow that is, as with all of Furnaces, both literate and cinematic.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar