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White Chalk (Exclusive Edition)

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Editors’ Notes

White Chalk is a quick, quiet piano-based song cycle. Unlike the majority of PJ Harvey’s catalog, there are no pounding rhythms. The drums, provided by the Dirty Three’s Jim White, are most often muted, and Harvey herself abandons any instinct to shriek for the pleasures of seductive coo-ing. Guitars have been packed and none of the garage rock clang from her previous album, Uh Huh Her, has been invited to participate. Harvey begins with “The Devil,” singing high in her range, words forming in vague combinations, the piano repeating its patterns obsessively. “Dear Darkness” is swallowed up by a large church reverb and a choir of voices that lend a solemn spirituality to the majestic melody. Many of the songs segue into one another and the flow is much like what the titles suggest: “The Piano,” “Silence,” “Broken Harp,” “When Under Ether.” The album’s closer, “The Mountain,” is the sound of marking time, the piano notes closing down the show as Harvey escapes through a hole in the sky. A low-key but affecting work.

Customer Reviews

Polly's latest endeavor

Let me begin by saying that I am very happy with the fact that PJ Harvey tests new waters for every album. You're never going to get the same thing you got on the last album. In fact, the contrasts between album to album are sometimes so grand with Harvey that it almost seems like someone else singing on the records. This time around, Polly Jean wrote all of her album's songs on the piano as opposed to her normal, comfortable instrument- the guitar. She had said her album would be piano-based, but in reality, the album ended up as mostly just piano with a few scattered instruments elsewhere. Still, I am not bothered. I'm not bothered by the fact that the album is slow and ethereal. Nor am I bothered that PJ's vocals stay in the falsetto range for almost the whole album. I am also not complaining that the album is so short. Once these factors are all combined together, in the end, "White Chalk" comes across as a dark and almost offensively odd record. This should make the listener either love it or hate it, but I certainly don't love it. And I also don't hate it. In fact, I'm quite torn about how to feel. There's no denying that PJ Harvey is a brilliant musician who takes chances when she puts out an album. And the fact that her albums aren't released that often make any effort she puts out worthwhile. The driving guitars and rage is pushed far away in "White Chalk", but the lyrics remain moody and dark. Songs like "Dear Darkness", "To Talk To You", and "Before Departure" give hints of suicide. "When Under Ether" is about a woman about to go into a procedure (so one would assume) and is observing the things happening around her while she fades away. Other songs are anecdotes of Harvey's life. "Silence" is full of gripping memories and "White Chalk" is about the singer's birth place of Dorset. And despite these themes, nothing really chills you to the bone until you get to the album's final cut, "The Mountain", which ends with a climax of PJ Harvey releasing piercing wails that echo into the abyss as the album is over. And it all happens in just under 34 minutes. So, would I recommend "White Chalk"? Yes, I would, but only to the avid Harvey fan. If someone is just being introduced to PJ Harvey, then no I do not recommend starting here. It's an album that leaves something to be desired, but that does not make it a bad one. I'm curious to see where PJ Harvey will go next.

After all, shes PJ Harvey

This album bends any curveball she's ever thrown to us. When I first had my listen, I became concened for her current state of mind. The record gives off an afterlife feel. I feel like I'm in the room at my own funeral through most of it. "Grow Grow Grow" might be her most incredible statement, she begs to find wholeness in her own empty life. The single, "When Under Ether" is a triumph. You get the feeling this is the where the albums persona lives her love interest-in Ether-is like humankindness. This is intensely profound.

One of 2007's best albums!

At first, I didn't really care for this album. It seemed too quiet and sparse, especially for a PJ Harvey album. But, I've gave this album a few more listens and now I'm completely hooked. This is not an album to blast in the car with the windows down, it's more of an album where you need to eliminate all distractions and focus on the music to appreciate the album as a whole. My personal favorites are 'Grow Grow Grow', 'White Chalk', and 'The Piano'. Definitely buy this album!

Biography

Born: October 9, 1969 in Yeovil, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

During the early-'90s alternative rock explosion, several female singer/songwriters rose to prominence, but few were as distinctive or as widely praised as Polly Jean Harvey. Over the course of three albums, Harvey established herself as one of the most individual and influential songwriters of the '90s, exploring themes of sex, love, and religion with unnerving honesty, dark humor, and a twisted theatricality. At the outset of her career, she led the trio PJ Harvey, which delivered her stark songs...
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