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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2011 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks - Stereophile: Record To Die For - Mercury Prize Winner
PJ Harvey followed her ghostly collection of ballads, White Chalk, with Let England Shake, an album strikingly different from what came before it except in its Englishness. White Chalk's haunted piano ballads seemed to emanate from an isolated manse on a moor, but here Harvey chronicles her relationship with her homeland through songs revolving around war. Throughout the album, she subverts the concept of the anthem -- a love song to one's country -- exploring the forces that shape nations and people. This isn't the first time Harvey has been inspired by a place, or even by England: she sang the praises of New York City and her home county of Dorset on Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Harvey recorded this album in Dorset, so the setting couldn't be more personal, or more English. Yet she and her longtime collaborators John Parish, Mick Harvey, and Flood travel to the Turkish battleground of Gallipoli for several of Let England Shake's songs, touching on the disastrous World War I naval strike that left more than 30,000 English soldiers dead. Her musical allusions are just as fascinating and pointed: the title track sets seemingly cavalier lyrics like "Let's head out to the fountain of death and splash about" to a xylophone melody borrowed from the Four Lads' "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," a mischievous echo of the questions of national identity Harvey explores on the rest of the album (that she debuted the song by performing it on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show for then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown just adds to its mischief). "The Words That Maketh Murder" culminates its grisly playground/battleground chant with a nod to Eddie Cochran's anthem for disenfranchised '50s teens "Summertime Blues," while "Written on the Forehead" samples Niney's "Blood and Fire" to equally sorrowful and joyful effect. As conceptually and contextually bold as Let England Shake is, it features some of Harvey's softest-sounding music. She continues to sing in the upper register that made White Chalk so divisive for her fans, but it's tempered by airy production and eclectic arrangements -- fittingly for an album revolving around war, brass is a major motif -- that sometimes disguise how angry and mournful many of these songs are. "The Last Living Rose" recalls Harvey's Dry-era sound in its simplicity and finds weary beauty even in her homeland's "grey, damp filthiness of ages," but on "England," she wails, "You leave a taste/A bitter one." In its own way, Let England Shake may be even more singular and unsettling than White Chalk was, and its complexities make it one of Harvey's most powerful works. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1995 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Mercury Prize Selection
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Rock - Released January 1, 1993 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Mercury Prize Selection
Dry was shockingly frank in its subject and sound, as PJ Harvey delivered post-feminist manifestos with a punkish force. PJ Harvey's second album, Rid of Me, finds the trio, and Harvey in particular, pushing themselves to extremes. This is partially due to producer Steve Albini, who gives the album a bloodless, abrasive edge with his exacting production; each dynamic is pushed to the limit, leaving absolutely no subtleties in the music. Harvey's songs, in decided contrast to Albini's approach, are filled with gray areas and uncertainties, and are considerably more personal than those on Dry. Furthermore, they are lyrically and melodically superior to the songs on the debut, but their merits are obscured by Albini's black-and-white production, which is polarizing. It may be the aural embodiment of the tortured lyrics, and therefore a supremely effective piece of performance art, but it also makes Rid of Me a difficult record to meet halfway. But anyone willing to accept its sonic extremities will find Rid of Me to be a record of unusual power and purpose, one with few peers in its unsettling emotional honesty. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 15, 2016 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
The Hope Six Demolition Project draws from several journeys undertaken by Harvey, who spent time in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington, D.C. over a four-year period. “When I’m writing a song I visualise the entire scene. I can see the colours, I can tell the time of day, I can sense the mood, I can see the light changing, the shadows moving, everything in that picture. Gathering information from secondary sources felt too far removed for what I was trying to write about. I wanted to smell the air, feel the soil and meet the people of the countries I was fascinated with”, says Harvey. The album was recorded last year in residency at London’s Somerset House. The exhibition, entitled ‘Recording in Progress’ saw Harvey, her band, producers Flood and John Parish, and engineers working within a purpose-built recording studio behind one-way glass, observed throughout by public audiences.
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 29, 2021 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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On Is This Desire?, PJ Harvey challenged expectations with her most daring production choices yet -- which is saying something, given the abrasive sound of her breakthrough Rid of Me. Working once again with To Bring You My Love collaborator Flood, she went all in on that album's industrial and electronic flirtations, giving her rock a chrome-plated edge and surrounding her desolate ballads in atmospheres that echoed Tricky and Portishead. As Is This Desire? The Demos reveals, Harvey's initial sketches for the album were even more polarized in their dynamics and moods. The seething electronics on "Joy" are still startling in the low-res form they take here, while "The Wind"'s layered whispers are even softer, albeit less distant, than in their final incarnation. Though some of these recordings understandably feel unfinished, others gain surprising depth from a simpler approach. The tinny trip-hop beat and Harvey's raw vocals on "Angelene" have an appealing nakedness, but the demo of "My Beautiful Leah" shows the song needed the full studio treatment to become the industrial rock dirge it was meant to be. "The River" remains hauntingly beautiful with a few synths hinting at the scale of its final form; similarly, "The Sky Lit Up" remains electrifying stripped of its spacey keyboards. On the demo of "Is This Desire?," Harvey's voice is closer and more magnetic, underscoring that it would have been a highlight on any of her albums. As with her previous collections of demos, Is This Desire? The Demos unearths connections within her body of work. Filled with dark, grinding distortion, this version of "A Perfect Day Elise" emphasizes its links to To Bring You My Love tracks like "Down by the Water" and "Meet Ze Monsta." Likewise, Harvey's bruised soprano and the subdued melody of "The Garden" foreshadow White Chalk and Let England Shake, where she proved beyond a doubt that her hushed confessions could be just as compelling as her head-on confrontations. Starker yet somehow more fully formed than some of her other demo albums, Is This Desire? The Demos is an illuminating listen. Fans who were initially perplexed by Is This Desire?'s chilly aesthetic just might gain a fuller appreciation of the album through these versions of its songs -- and as always, it's fascinating to hear Harvey's original concepts. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 26, 2021 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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By the time of 2000's Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, PJ Harvey was still finding ways to reinvent her music. While the album's sonics were even smoother than on Is This Desire?, Harvey traded her previous record's moody character studies for direct songwriting that feels even more genuine on Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea: The Demos. As on her previous collections of sketches, Harvey's strategies for her songs are clearly mapped out. Aside from the trip-hop-tinged beats on "A Place for Us" and "We Float," there are few drastic differences from the demos to the finished versions, but even when the instrumentation is as simple as Harvey and her guitar, it never feels like anything is missing. This raw minimalism heightens the songs' intimacy, particularly on "This Mess We're In," where Harvey sings alone instead of being joined by Thom Yorke, and on the somber sensuality of "Beautiful Feeling." Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea's undercurrent of happiness -- one of its most surprising but welcome artistic choices -- jumps out loud and clear on a throaty rendition of "Good Fortune" and an emphatic "This Is Love." As demos, the album's rockers feel lean and unencumbered: Harvey's spine-tingling wails and fuzzed-out guitar have all the crackling immediacy of a live performance on "The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore." Elsewhere, tributes to the power of New York City like "Big Exit" and "Kamikaze" pay homage to Patti Smith and hint at the energy that was about to burst forth from acts like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. While Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea's glossy rock and straightforward ballads were different than anything else in Harvey's body of work, the album's demos remain consistently entertaining for fans who want to hear her music come into being. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 11, 2020 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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2020 has been a challenging year for music production but at least we can take some comfort in listening to PJ Harvey’s old albums, reissued in chronological order. After Dry and Rid Of Me, it’s time to roll out the red carpet for To Bring You My Love. Released in 1995, this was the album that transformed PJ Harvey as we knew her. Dropping out of the original trio of musicians she was part of, she turned her back on the feeling of austerity in her two previous albums ventured into less monolithic and more sensual and well-produced music. Music that reflects the singer's cover photo, with her red lips and red dress, holding a sensuous and glamourous pose. This brilliant album extended PJ Harvey’s fanbase by attracting a new audience and breaking from her past, opening up opportunities for the future. Of particular interest here is the previously unreleased demo version of To Bring You My Love, the ten songs from the album before they were placed into the expert hands of producers Flood and John Parish. Don’t expect a major revelation – these tracks aren’t early guitar/vocals versions, they sound more like pre-recordings which are already well-arranged with percussion, drum machine and keyboards. Everything is already in place; the producers just have to fine-tune the sound, work on the contrasts and add depth. For fans of To Bring You My Love, these tracks are the basic blueprint for their beloved songs. For fans of PJ Harvey before To Bring You My Love, they will find the singer as she was on her first two albums here – without the lipstick or the shimmering dress. © Stéphane Deschamps/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2007 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

The quiet ones are always the scariest. Polly Jean Harvey's appearance on the cover of White Chalk -- all wild black hair and ghostly white dress -- could replace the dictionary definition of eerie, and the album itself plays like a good ghost story. It's haunted by British folk, steeped in Gothic romance and horror, and almost impossible to get out of your head, despite (but really because of) how unsettling it becomes. White Chalk is Harvey's darkest album yet -- which, considering that she's sung about dismembering a lover and drowning her daughter, is saying something. It's also one of her most beautiful albums, inspired by the fragility and timelessness of chalk lines and her relative newness to the piano, which dominates White Chalk; it gives "Before Departure" funereal heft and "Grow Grow Grow" a witchy sparkle befitting its incantations. Most striking of all, however, is Harvey's voice: she sings most of White Chalk in a high, keening voice somewhere between a whisper and a whimper. She sounds like a wraith or a lost child, terrifyingly so on "The Mountain," where she breaks the tension with a spine-tingling shriek just before the album ends. This frail persona is almost unrecognizable as the woman who snarled about being a 50-foot queenie -- yet few artists challenge themselves to change their sound as much as she does, so paradoxically, it's a quintessentially PJ Harvey move. The album does indeed sound timeless, or at least, not modern. White Chalk took five months to record with Harvey's longtime collaborators Flood, John Parish, and Eric Drew Feldman, but these somber, cloistered songs sound like they could be performed in a parlor, or channeled via Ouija board. There is hardly any guitar (and certainly nothing as newfangled as electric guitar) besides the acoustic strumming on the beautifully chilly title track, which could pass for an especially gloomy traditional British folk song. Lyrics like "The Devil"'s "Come here at once! All my being is now in pining" could be written by one of the Brontë sisters. On a deeper level, White Chalk feels like a freshly unearthed relic because it runs so deep and dark. Harvey doesn't just capture isolation and anguish; she makes fear, regret, and loneliness into entities. In these beautiful and almost unbearably intimate songs, darkness is a friend, silence is an enemy, and a piano is a skeleton with broken teeth and twitching red tongues. "When Under Ether" offers a hallucinatory escape from some horrible reality -- quite possibly abortion, since unwanted children are some of the many broken family ties that haunt the album -- and this is White Chalk's single. What makes the album even more intriguing is that it doesn't really have much in common with the work of Harvey's contemporaries (although Joanna Newsom's Ys and Scott Walker's The Drift come to mind, mostly for their artistic fearlessness) or even her own catalog. It rivals Dance Hall at Louse Point for its willingness to challenge listeners, but it's far removed from Uh Huh Her, which was arguably more listenable but a lot less remarkable. In fact, this may be Harvey's most undiluted album yet. When she's at the peak of her powers, as she is on this frightening yet fearless album, the world she creates is impossible to forget, or shake off easily. White Chalk can make you shiver on a sunny day. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1998 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Retreating from the limelight after the tour for To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey returned to her small hometown of Yeovil and isolated herself from most pop trends, eventually writing the material that would come to comprise her fourth album, Is This Desire? Released over three and a half years after To Bring You My Love, Is This Desire? has all the hallmarks of a record written in isolation; subtle, cerebral, insular, difficult to assimilate, it's the album where Polly Harvey enters the ranks of craftsmen, sacrificing confession for fiction. It's an inevitable transition for any artist, especially one as lyrically gifted as Harvey, and though her words are more obtuse and not as brutal, painful, or clever, she still draws some effective character sketches. Similarly, the music on Is This Desire? is hardly the immediate, blunt force that characterized her first albums, nor is it the grand theater of To Bring You My Love -- it takes its time, slowly working its way into the subconsciousness. There are a few guitar explosions scattered throughout the record, but it's primarily a series of layered keyboards, electronic rhythms, and acoustic guitars; it's so quiet that at times it barely rises above a murmur, and occasionally floats away without leaving a lasting impression. It seems to challenge the listener to accept it on its own grounds, but once you dig deeper, it winds up offering diminishing rewards. It is more concerned with texture than any of her previous records, but it doesn't push forward enough -- it's either standard hard rockers or mournful ballads underpinned by lite electronica beats, which would have more impact if they were more pronounced. Since Harvey is an extraordinarily gifted songwriter, the album is hardly devoid of merit, but it's her least focused or successful record to date. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 24, 2020 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Over the course of PJ Harvey's career, documenting her art has seemed almost as important to her as creating it. She most famously let her audience behind the curtain with 4-Track Demos, the album of sketches and outtakes that followed on the heels of her breakthrough Rid of Me, and continued the tradition with projects like 2019's A Dog Called Money, a film chronicling the research behind and the recording of The Hope Six Demolition Project. In 2020, Harvey reissued her body of work with accompanying albums of their demos, starting with Dry. Though these demos were originally released with a limited edition of the album back in 1992, they've only grown more fascinating with time. Stripped of the grungy heft of their studio versions, the beautiful, nimble bones of these songs are allowed to stand on their own. The more intimate rendition of "Dress," with its dreamy, half-whispered opening verse and touches of scraping violins and searing guitars, presents an even clearer picture of the song's dashed hopes. A brisk reading of "Sheela Na Gig" that puts the focus on Harvey's playful vocals is another highlight, as is "Happy and Bleeding," where the spellbinding dynamics she creates with just her vocals and guitar might actually surpass the version that appears on Dry. Her combinations of blues, folk, and indie are at their rawest on "Hair" and "Fountain," both of which imply the gale-force intensity of their finished renditions. While some of these songs needed the studio treatment to fulfill their potential, it's clear that Harvey knew exactly how she wanted them to sound when she committed these sketches to tape. While Dry: The Demos doesn't hold any huge revelations, its small differences and riveting performances are treasures for die-hard fans who have the same passion for archiving that Harvey does. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 31, 2004 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Even though she's not quite as overt about it as Madonna or David Bowie, PJ Harvey remains one of rock's expert chameleons. Her ever-changing sound keeps her music open to interpretation, and her seventh album, Uh Huh Her, is no different in that it departs from what came before it. Uh Huh Her -- a title that can be pronounced and interpreted as an affirmation, a gasp, a sigh, or a laugh -- is, as Harvey promised, darker and rawer than the manicured Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. That album was a bid for the mainstream that Harvey said she made just to see if she could; this album sounds like she made it because she had to. However, despite the playful tantrum "Who the Fuck?" and the noisy mix of pent-up erotic longing and frustration that is "The Letter," Uh Huh Her isn't the Rid of Me redux that one might envision as a reaction to the previous album's gloss. Instead, Harvey uses some of each of the sounds and ideas that she has explored throughout her career. The gallery of self-portraits, juxtaposed with snippets of Harvey's notebooks, gracing Uh Huh Her's liner notes underscores the feeling of culmination and moving forward. The results aren't exactly predictable, though, and that's part of what makes songs like "The Life and Death of Mr. Badmouth" interesting. Earlier in Harvey's career, a track like this probably would have exploded in feral fury, but here it simmers with a crawling tension, switching atmospheric keyboards for searing guitars. Indeed, keyboards and odd instrumental flourishes abound on Uh Huh Her, making it the most sonically interesting PJ Harvey album since Is This Desire? Lyrically, heartache, sex, and feminine roles are still Harvey's bread and butter, but she manages to find something new in these themes each time she returns to them. "Pocket Knife" is an especially striking example: a beautifully creepy murder ballad, the song conjures images of hidden feminine power -- a pocketknife concealed by a wedding dress -- as well as lyrics like "I'm not trying to cause a fuss/I just wanna make my own fuck-ups." "You Come Through," meanwhile, is nearly as direct and vulnerable as anything that appeared on Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Uh Huh Her isn't perfect; the track listing feels top-loaded, some of the later songs, such as "Cat on the Wall" and "It's You" come close to sounding like generic PJ Harvey (if such a thing is possible), and the minute-long track of crying seagulls is either a distraction or a palate cleanser, depending on your outlook. Still, Uh Huh Her does so many things right, like the gorgeous, Latin-tinged "Shame" and the stripped-down beauty of "The Desperate Kingdom of Love" (one of a handful of short, glimpse-like songs that give the album an organic ebb and flow), that its occasional stumbles are worth overlooking. Perhaps the most nuanced album in PJ Harvey's body of work, Uh Huh Her balances her bold and vulnerable moments, but remains vital. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 30, 2021 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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After the meticulously crafted Is This Desire? and Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, PJ Harvey opted for a more spontaneous sound on 2004's Uh Huh Her, an approach that's even more evident on Uh Huh Her: The Demos. At nine songs long, this is a smaller collection than some of her previous demo collections -- true to Harvey's goal, several Uh Huh Her tracks were written while recording -- but many of the album's finest moments are present and accounted for. Chief among them is "Shame," which is just as stunning in this minimalist version that showcases her spellbinding songwriting and singing (at one point, she almost sobs the chorus) as it was on the finished album. Interestingly, several of these sketches sound more like typical demos than Harvey's initial recordings for her other albums. They're not sloppy, but they give the impression that she got the songs down on tape just well enough to use as a starting point. Her vocals are deep in the red on "The Life and Death of Mr. Bigmouth," and the cheap, hissy drum machine backing her outbursts on "Who the Fuck?" brings out the playfulness behind the song's catharsis. These looser performances reflect how fundamental not overworking or overthinking her ideas was to Uh Huh Her's creative process, especially since this was the first album Harvey produced on her own since 1993's 4-Track Demos. And while the album's louder tracks remain highlights on Uh Huh Her: The Demos -- the sensuality of "The Letter" and "It's You" sounds even more uninhibited -- its quieter songs also hold their own. The beautiful Western ballad "The Desperate Kingdom of Love" shines in its simplicity here, while stripped-down renditions of "The Slow Drug" and "The Pocket Knife" reveal their respective ties to Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea and White Chalk. Filled with details and connections that will fascinate die-hard fans and recording geeks, Uh Huh Her: The Demos is just as compelling as the larger volumes in Harvey's archival demos series, and makes a case that Uh Huh Her is one of the more underappreciated albums in her discography. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 24, 2007 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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When White Chalk was released, it provided another surprise for PJ Harvey fans. Its sparse, spectral songs were a far cry from the snarling rock and electronic experiments that came before them, and somehow White Chalk: The Demos is even wispier and more ephemeral. Often, it seems like Harvey might not have needed as many as four tracks to sketch the album's incantations and mood pieces. These recordings are dominated by her uncanny soprano vocals and piano with the occasional backing vocal or flute-like keyboard floating by; the most notable embellishment is the echo she uses to wonderfully ghostly effect on the title track. If White Chalk: The Demos is missing some of the studio magic that Harvey concocted with longtime collaborators Flood, John Parish, and Eric Drew Feldman, the collection makes up for it in intimacy. Being close enough to Harvey to hear her press the piano's pedals heightens the feeling that she recorded these songs in a haunted drawing room filled with flickering candlelight. More so than on the finished album, "Dear Darkness" resembles a whispered prayer; "Grow Grow Grow" becomes a seance; and "Broken Harp"'s atonal anguish takes on a field recording-like rawness. Stripping away some of White Chalk's atmosphere underscores just how good the bones of its songs are. Without as many sounds surrounding them, the album's tales of mortality, betrayal, and isolation often feel more present, whether they're plaintive moments like "When Under Ether" and "To Talk to You" or the intense foreboding of "The Mountain." As with Harvey's other demo collections, the primeval form of White Chalk makes the ties between her albums more apparent. It's easier to hear how some of the spookier moments of Uh Huh Her and Is This Desire (as well as the mythical storytelling of Dry and To Bring You My Love) relate to these songs, and in turn, how White Chalk's dreamy Englishness foreshadowed how she explored her complex relationship with her homeland to great acclaim on Let England Shake. While the distinctions between the studio and demo versions of White Chalk are often subtle, the nuances in mood and meaning make for gripping listening. White Chalk: The Demos may cast a different spell than the finished album, but it once again makes a strong case for hearing Harvey's songs in the raw -- and for her ability to take her art in so many various yet cohesive directions. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Dry

Alternative & Indie - Released March 2, 1992 | Too Pure

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Pop - Released January 1, 2000 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

During her career, Polly Jean Harvey has had as many incarnations as she has albums. She's gone from the Yeovil art student of her debut Dry, to Rid of Me's punk poetess to To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire?'s postmodern siren; on Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea -- inspired by her stay in New York City and life in the English countryside -- she's changed again. The album cover's stylish, subtly sexy image suggests what its songs confirm: PJ Harvey has grown up. Direct, vulnerable lyrics replace the allegories and metaphors of her previous work, and the album's production polishes the songs instead of obscuring them in noise or studio tricks. On the album's best tracks, such as "Kamikaze" and "This Is Love," a sexy, shouty blues-punk number that features the memorable refrain "I can't believe life is so complex/When I just want to sit here and watch you undress," Harvey sounds sensual and revitalized. The New York influences surface on the glamorous punk rock of "Big Exit" and "Good Fortune," on which Harvey channels both Chrissie Hynde's sexy tough girl and Patti Smith's ferocious yelp. Ballads like the sweetly urgent, piano and marimba-driven "One Line" and the Thom Yorke duet "This Mess We're In" avoid the painful depths of Harvey's darkest songs; "Horses in My Dreams" also reflects Harvey's new emotional balance: "I have pulled myself clear," she sighs, and we believe her. However, "We Float"'s glossy choruses veer close to Lillith Fair territory, and longtime fans can't help but miss the visceral impact of her early work, but Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea doesn't compromise her essential passion. Hopefully, this album's happier, more direct PJ Harvey is a persona she'll keep around for a while. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Part of a series commemorating the second anniversary of legendary BBC DJ John Peel's death, PJ Harvey's The Peel Sessions 1991-2004 feels like a thank you and goodbye to a longtime friend. It should almost go without saying that these performances are great. As good as PJ Harvey's albums are, her concerts are even more striking, and her rapport with Peel just adds to the intimacy and intensity of these songs. The tracks from the October 1991 session that kick off the album account for a third of the entire album and may actually be better than the versions of these songs that ended up on Dry almost a year later. "Oh My Lover"'s lumbering guitars and "Victory"'s heavy, almost tangible basslines capture the formidable power and tightly controlled dynamics of the PJ Harvey trio at the time. However, the ecstatic version of "Water" is the standout, harnessing the full range of Harvey's amazing voice, from gently phrased verses to gasping shrieks at the song's end. From here, The Peel Sessions 1991-2004 takes some interesting twists and turns. Harvey hand-picked all the songs included here, and she makes some surprising choices (though maybe they shouldn't be, considering that she often puts unexpected songs in her live shows). Her version of Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle" (which also appeared as a B-side on the Man-Size single) is one of her most ferociously sexy and playful performances from the Rid of Me/4-Track Demos era, and it doesn't disappoint here; "Losing Ground," the creepy biblical punk of "Snake," and "This Wicked Tongue," a snarling rocker that was only on the Japanese version and first U.K. pressing of Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, are equally raw and direct. On the other hand, the almost-folk of "That Was My Veil" and hypnotic restraint of "Beautiful Feeling" show that the more reflective sound Harvey developed later in the '90s was just as gripping. Interestingly, the only single included from her post-Dry work is the final song, "You Come Through," which she performed at the Peel tribute held six weeks after his death (making lyrics like "golden wishes to your health and mine" that much more poignant). Here, as with most of her career, Harvey doesn't go for the easy choices -- something she and her friend definitely had in common. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2009 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

A Woman a Man Walked By arrived just a year and a half after PJ Harvey's equally difficult and brilliant White Chalk. That alone makes it notable, since the last time she released albums in such quick succession was the early to mid-'90s, around the same time of her last songwriting collaboration with John Parish, Dance Hall at Louse Point. That album's unbridled experiments provided a sharp contrast to the subversive polish of its predecessor, To Bring You My Love; while A Woman a Man Walked By isn't quite as overt an about-face from White Chalk, the difference is still distinct. Here, Harvey and Parish (who played on and co-produced White Chalk) trade sublime, sustained eeriness for freewheeling vignettes that cover a wider range of sounds and moods than her music has in years. They begin with "Black Hearted Love," the equivalent of Dance Hall at Louse Point's "This Was My Veil" -- that is, the album's most accessible moment: guitar-heavy yet sleek, its riffs full of pregnant pauses as Harvey hones in on the one she wants, the song's sinister romance initially seems dangerously close to melodrama ("When you call out my name in rapture/I volunteer my soul for murder"), but she sings "you are my black-hearted love" so tenderly and knowingly that it transcends cliché. This immediacy just makes the swift twists and turns the rest of A Woman a Man Walked By takes even more striking. The wildly jangling acoustic guitar and breathless vocals of the following track, "Sixteen Fifteen Fourteen," make that clear right away, but despite its nervy intensity, the song -- and the rest of the album -- is remarkably direct. Similarly, Harvey's character studies are just as vivid as other artists' really real, from-the-soul lyrics, and she embodies them just as completely: on "The Soldier," she sings of "walking on the faces of dead women" with haunted fragility; on "Daniel," she's a mother so devastated by loss that she can only mention it by name at the last possible moment. A Woman a Man Walked By also boasts songs that rank among Harvey's most intimate and seemingly confessional. From its shimmering guitar and mournful flute to its carefully observed words ("you slept facing the wall"), "Passionless, Pointless" captures a dying romance with dreamy desolation, while "Cracks in the Canvas" closes the album with the beautifully simple yet open-ended admission "I'm looking for an answer, me and a million others." Best of all, though, are A Woman a Man Walked By's furious -- and surprisingly hilarious -- moments, which leave conventional notions about sex and sexuality trampled in their wake. The first part of "A Woman a Man Walked By/The Crow Knows Where All the Little Children Go" finds Harvey deriding and lusting after a "woman man" with "lily-livered little parts," switching between a guttural snarl and fey soprano as she tears him to pieces (the second, instrumental part is Parish's only solo credit on the album, a riot of pianos and twitchy percussion that's nearly as wound-up as what came before it). "Pig Will Not" is even rawer, mixing Rid of Me-like firepower with a wicked sense of humor and feral barking with lines like "true love is what we're doing now." Even the far quieter "Leaving California" reveals a surprising amount of mischief, invoking some of White Chalk's mist and gloom for its ironic kiss-off to the Golden State. Despite the album's many dark and evocative moments, there's a playfulness and liberated spirit underlying A Woman a Man Walked By. Parish and Harvey's idea of fun might be very different than that of many other artists, but hearing them cover so much musical and emotional territory is often exhilarating. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 24, 2007 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

When White Chalk was released, it provided another surprise for PJ Harvey fans. Its sparse, spectral songs were a far cry from the snarling rock and electronic experiments that came before them, and somehow White Chalk: The Demos is even wispier and more ephemeral. Often, it seems like Harvey might not have needed as many as four tracks to sketch the album's incantations and mood pieces. These recordings are dominated by her uncanny soprano vocals and piano with the occasional backing vocal or flute-like keyboard floating by; the most notable embellishment is the echo she uses to wonderfully ghostly effect on the title track. If White Chalk: The Demos is missing some of the studio magic that Harvey concocted with longtime collaborators Flood, John Parish, and Eric Drew Feldman, the collection makes up for it in intimacy. Being close enough to Harvey to hear her press the piano's pedals heightens the feeling that she recorded these songs in a haunted drawing room filled with flickering candlelight. More so than on the finished album, "Dear Darkness" resembles a whispered prayer; "Grow Grow Grow" becomes a seance; and "Broken Harp"'s atonal anguish takes on a field recording-like rawness. Stripping away some of White Chalk's atmosphere underscores just how good the bones of its songs are. Without as many sounds surrounding them, the album's tales of mortality, betrayal, and isolation often feel more present, whether they're plaintive moments like "When Under Ether" and "To Talk to You" or the intense foreboding of "The Mountain." As with Harvey's other demo collections, the primeval form of White Chalk makes the ties between her albums more apparent. It's easier to hear how some of the spookier moments of Uh Huh Her and Is This Desire (as well as the mythical storytelling of Dry and To Bring You My Love) relate to these songs, and in turn, how White Chalk's dreamy Englishness foreshadowed how she explored her complex relationship with her homeland to great acclaim on Let England Shake. While the distinctions between the studio and demo versions of White Chalk are often subtle, the nuances in mood and meaning make for gripping listening. White Chalk: The Demos may cast a different spell than the finished album, but it once again makes a strong case for hearing Harvey's songs in the raw -- and for her ability to take her art in so many various yet cohesive directions. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1993 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Since Steve Albini gave Rid of Me such an uncompromisingly noisy finish, it may have made sense for Polly Harvey to release her original demos, augmented by several unreleased songs, six months later as an album. After all, the initial British pressings of Dry came with a bonus disc of her demos. Still, the official, independent release of 4-Track Demos suggests that Harvey wanted to give these songs another chance for listeners who found Rid of Me too abrasive. Even for those who enjoyed Rid of Me, 4-Track Demos is a revelatory experience, since it arguably captures the raw emotion of the songs better the official record. A handful of songs from the record aren't repeated in demo form -- namely "Missed," "Man-Size," "Highway 61 Revisited," "Dry," and "Me-Jane" -- but they're replaced by the previously unreleased "Reeling," "Driving," "Hardly Wait," "Easy," "M-Bike," and "Goodnight," most of which are easily the equal of the songs that were actually released, and that's what makes 4-Track Demos necessary for every Harvey fan, not just collectors. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Film Soundtracks - Released April 12, 2019 | INVADA Records