Saturday, September 22, 2007

Album Review: P J Harvey



Album Review: PJ Harvey 'White Chalk' (Universal Island)

More than fifteen years into her career, each new PJ Harvey album is rightly greeted with interest and expectation. She intrigued us all from the moment she arrived -even as a fifteen year old male, there was something that seemed more feminist than titillation about 'that' naked picture in NME, and songs like 'Sheela-Na-Gig' ('You EXHIBITIONIST!) and 'Water' showed someone whose music was intriguing, raw and honest, yet still unsettling. And then came the second album Rid Of Me.

Each of her albums genuinely stands alone and on it's own merits. 1995's To Bring You My Love took Beefheart's mould and made her own, 2000's Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea seemed almost commercial but distinctively her again.

And so here we have Polly Jean in 2007. Although produced with long-term collaborators Flood and John Parrish, this is yet again, a PJ Harvey record like none we have heard before. This is still striking music, but this time the rock, groove and electronics have all disappeared. This album has far more in common with early twentieth century classical music than anything she has done before. This time, the record is largely dominated by piano and her voice.

This record, at 34 minutes, is shorter than others she has produced, but there is something warm lurking underneath the initially stark audio. This will perhaps come as a shock to those most familiar with singles like 'Good Fortune' or 'Down By The Water' but this record continues the trajectory of a performer and songwriter who is much less bothered about pigeonholes, genres and categorisation than parts of her audience might be. There is a mystery and beauty about this record, and I think further, repeated listens will perhaps coax a few of its' secrets out.

****

White Chalk is released on Monday September 24 in the UK on Universal Island.

PJ Harvey -'The Devil.' mp3

PJ Harvey -'Grow Grow Grow.' mp3

PJ Harvey -'White Chalk.' mp3

10 comments:

matthew c. said...

Polly Jean is definitely my favourite of any female singer-songwriter's out there. It sounds quite silly and strange, but I like how she can make something sound ugly, yet be beautiful at the same time... or vice versa.

I don't know if you go for any stuff by bands like Kyuss or Queens of the Stone Age, but have you heard the last album recorded by Desert Sessions? She has a prominent role on it. Hopefully I'm not coming across as the stereotypical sexist swine, but she does sound really good when paired with a male vocalist.

Tacim said...

Definitely one of the best albums of the year! Absolutely gorgeous!

Ed said...

Matthew C. - I have heard 'Crawl Home' which I really like, and of course, there's also the matter of the 'Henry Lee' duet with Nick cave, whilst we're on the subject of her dueting with male vocalists...

Tacim -Really like it so far. If it's nearly the end of September will have to start thinking about my best of 2007 lists...

Juan said...

My wife will be so excited since she believes my dabbling on this blog thingy is such a dreadful waste of time...

here is proof (since she loves PJ) that good things can come of it!

Ed said...

glad to hear it, Juan.

When I read the above comment, I laughed out loud, and...I have just been reminded by my wife not to make her sound like an ogre, so I won't... : ))

(She is not an ogre, even if the above might make her sound like one. She is extraordinarily tolerant in many ways, and very lovely indeed).

Juan said...

love to hear that across the atlantic (and even pacific) wives everywhere stand by their blogging husbands.

BTW my wife and i loved the PJ tracks and will buy the CD forthwith

Ed said...

Result!

So It Goes said...

Bloody hell! Another post about the PJ Harvey album (see Ghost Of Electricity). Yes, great, love it, but Bat For Lashes is your discovery of the year for me.

Ed said...

Glad you liked the bat for Lashes, would probably have posted on Peej anyway : )

Anonymous said...

I love White Chalk and feel like it's her most experimentally brave record since Is This Desire. Ed, I wanted to e-mail you directly about my music. Can you send me a link? My e-mail is mark.freifeld@gmail.com