Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Uh Huh Her

harvey2333a4.jpg PJ Harvey scares me; her voice sends shivers down my spine like no other vocalist. When I hear her sing, I feel her haunted visions play out inside my head. When I picked up her latest album, White Chalk, even the cover art gave me the creeps, and could possibly give me nightmares for the next few weeks. But Harvey is not here to scare us, she is here to guide us through the darkness that troubles this beautiful enchantress.

White Chalk is PJ Harvey's eight studio album, and her most ambitious effort by far. Gone are the dizzying pulse and fractured grind of her previous albums, instead Harvey is relying on her voice. This album is a departure from her previous works, it is more reticent, soothing, and truthful. From the opening track The Devil, where her voice patiently explodes fluently with the piano, to the melancholy desperation in The Mountain, Harvey bares her soul with tantalizing results. In the song Dear Darkness, she whispers "Dear Darkness, won't you cover me, cover me again, I've been your friend for many years", we are quick understand her pangs, and yearn to comfort her. White Chalk is more than just a sad and depressing record, it is an exploration into the deepest corners of the heart's abyss. The rage that was prevalent in her earlier work is no longer there, instead Harvey has learned to trust her voice and poetics to effectively carry her songs.

This album is beautiful, brilliant, elegant, powerful, and haunting. After a few listens it has quickly become one of my favorite albums of 2007. Harvey's music has often been described as punk, goth, blues-rock, and art-rock, White Chalk dispels all those labels. Some fans may find this album too depressing and soft, or perhaps too much of a departure from her musical style; but this is the album that Harvey has been slowly evolving toward since she released Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea and Uh Huh Her. And this is the album we've been waiting for.