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Ed Harcourt

Astralwerks/Heavenly

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Pity the poor girlfriend of Ed Harcourt. Though the 27-year-old British pianist reportedly found love before recording his new album, he definitely didn’t allow romantic bliss to change him. Strangers, the successor to Harcourt’s 2001 Mercury Prize–nominated debut, Here Be Monsters, and 2003 follow-up, From Every Sphere, shows that the guy still thinks of himself as one Badly Burnt Boy. Feisty album-opener “The Storm Is Coming” is an ode to worsening depression, the hymnal “Something to Live For” celebrates “that never-ending open wound/ That started from a simple scratch,” and the LP’s rockingest offering is titled “Loneliness.” Harcourt even wears his broken heart on his sleeve when stepping out, using perhaps the worst line in the history of pout-rock when, in the dulcet piano-and-trumpet number “Black Dress,” he tries to talk his gal into a night on the town by rationalizing “our lives are fast approaching death.” Worst of all—aside from the ponderously weird acoustic falling-in-a-hole flashback that is “The Trapdoor”—is that new paramour Gita Langley apparently decided that if she couldn’t drag Harcourt out of the void, she might as well join him there. She contributes background vocals to the title track and her violin to Strangers’ explosive plea for nondestructive coupling, “Let Love Not Weigh Me Down.” The tempos only occasionally head for the adult-contemporary side of Keane, and Harcourt’s voice isn’t quite as whiskey-soaked as Ryan Adams’ or as irritatingly fragile as Chris Martin’s. (Though he does adopt the Coldplay crooner’s phrasing in the otherwise pleasantly twangy “This One’s for You”: “I cahn’t stahp stahring at choo-oo!”) Producer Jari Haapalainen, however, ensures that Harcourt’s hurt comes through, putting him front and center amid whatever manner of dark, sparkly stuff he could capture at his studio in the remote Swedish woods. So what if listeners find themselves fast-forwarding through Strangers whenever it all gets to be too much? Harcourt himself is clearly pleased that, love be damned, his woeful worldview has remained intact: “Loneliness” he wails, “what would I do without you?” —Tricia Olszewski

Harcourt performs at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, March 6, at Iota, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. For more information, call (703) 522-8340