WHITE CHALK is as surprising a musical change of direction for Polly Jean Harvey as the bluesy, torchy TO BRING YOU MY LOVE was back in 1995 after the corrosive guitar fury of the English singer-songwriter's first two albums. Indeed, WHITE CHALK may be PJ Harvey's most unexpected work yet, as well as her most artistically accomplished. Putting down her signature guitar in favor of piano (an instrument she has never played on record before), Harvey has crafted a gloriously strange song cycle that owes much to the art rock likes of Kate Bush or Genesis-era Peter Gabriel. These 11 songs tell a fractured, loosely connected story that blends allegorical fantasy with some of the most intensely personal vocal performances of Harvey's career. Highlights include the phantasmagorical "When Under Ether" and the near apocalyptically intense closer "The Mountain," although WHITE CHALK is one of those albums that is best experienced as a whole.
Personnel: PJ Harvey (acoustic guitar); Martin Brunsden, Briget Pearse, Nick Bicât, Andrew Dickson (vocals); John Parish (acoustic guitar); Nico Brown (concertina); Eric Drew Feldman (keyboards); Jim White (drums).
Rolling Stone (p.76) - 4 stars out of 5 – " have a cold pastoral kind of chill, as Harvey howls about being possessed by demon lovers and ghosts in 'The Devil' and 'The Piano.'"
Spin (pp.95-96) - 3.5 stars out of 5 – "Now, romantic desire's dark and twisted side is Harvey's main creative turf….Her vocals are downright pretty, sounding more like those of a traditional English singer than the raging punk Medusa of old."
Q (p.98) - 4 stars out of 5 – "Shunning the guitar in favour of gauzy piano and smudged vocals, Harvey sounds like she's channelling through a Victorian medium…"
Uncut (p.84) - 4 stars out of 5 – "An album of lonely beauty and piercing sorrow, WHITE CHALK is PJ Harvey back at the peak of her considerable powers."
The Wire (p.60) - "Harvey's new strategy has been successful….It's certainly her most haunting work."
The Wire (p.35) - Included in The Wire's "50 Records of the Year 2007".
Q (Magazine) (p.80) - Ranked #24 in Q's "The 50 Best Albums Of 2007" – "Harvey produced an album of such unsettling intimacy that it dares you to play it alone in the dark."
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