The album he's always wanted to make, the album we've always wanted to hear

So, Ed Harcourt now releases his fifth album, The Beautiful Lie. Featuring Graham Coxon and BJ Cole here and there, and full of little stories of woeful nights with booze, cigarettes and hurricanes, all presented in a slightly gothic way, but with a new modesty that makes him seem like he's now got it, and knows how to use it, The Beautiful Lie is a ride you're happy to be the passenger for, as it swings and swerves all over.

Sounding like Nick Cave, proving a good crop grows from bad seeds; his songs are drenched in a pretty, melancholy orchestration that lends to a dreamy atmosphere that the whole record conveys. 'Late Night Partner' is a very tearful affair, full with strings and piano and vocal that all weep in a heart-rending voice that's not nauseating, but strangely inspiring, a 'revolution in the heart', to use the title of the following track. And quite a track it is too, sounding like a very dark U2 at some points, with similarities to Something Happens as well, until it all breaks down for a joyous chorus of 'shaa-la-la's' in the middle, which sound like Ed and all his singers having a wail of a time. On The Beautiful Lie Ed Harcourt comes across as a proper dark troubadour, it's like Frank Sinatra singing to a backing of a Danny Elfman score to a Tim Burton film. There's a sleazy, jazzy feel in some of the records, back-street steam rising from manhole covers as drunks stumble out of bars and are barked at by dogs. 'Until Tomorrow Then' comes with these kind of images, a suited man swaying next to a piano with a microphone in one hand, scotch on the rocks in the other and a cigarette in mouth.

'Rain On The Pretty Ones' is the most beautiful lay of the album, a swelling of strings, a choir of resplendent backing vocals, a precise potting of piano stabs and a glorious lead vocal by Mr. Harcourt himself, a very good song it is. 'The Pristine Claw' tells a funny story of a woman's adventures with plastic surgery and is musically very tranquil and gripping, and then 'I Am The Drug' is like Matt Bellamy fronting a Morrissey covers band, it has that sunny Latino sort of feel to it, lending itself well to dance choreography.

'Braille' features Harcourt's wife on co-vocals; spawning from their recent wedding this record sounds like the marriage of a man whose soul is encompassed in darkness, with a life-affirming vocation of music-making, in which he can share it all and be comforted in a newfound marital bliss, and 'Braille' is a hauntingly contented track in terms of feel and ambience.

It finishes on a lovely ender that sails the album out perfectly and leaves you contemplating the record you've just listened to, rather than skipping straight onto the next thing with little regard. 'Good Friends Are Hard To Find' is a very nice piece of music with some truisms and a message that will ring bells in everyone. There are moments of charm, moments of eloquence and moments of suave sophistication on this album, all conducted with the dignity of a gentleman, and every now and then it's a bit of a free-for-all. And that's the way it should be.