Say what you will about Polly Jean Harvey, the enchanting singer-songwriter definitely keeps you on your toes. Expect nothing different with her scheduled Oct. 2nd (in the U.S.)/Sept 24 (in the U.K.) release, White Chalk on Island records.
Without a doubt, this is Harvey’s most haunting release to date. Given who we’re talking about, that’s no small accomplishment. The title track finds Harvey walking around the hills of her Dorset, England home, memories of her buried family members just below the surface, scratching at her feet to be released. In “Dear Darkness” Harvey, or the character in this 11-track fairytale, appears behind a desk composing a letter to her “Dear Darkness/won’t you cover me/I’ve been your friend for many years.”
In a noticeable departure from Harvey’s previous releases, White Chalk is a stripped-down, minimalist affair that features an echoing piano as almost the only instrument used in this album. A few other instruments do surface but the piano is front and center here. Harvey recently learned to play piano and was apparently struck by the muse for this release. For White Chalk, Harvey’s adjusted her husky, almost feral, alto for a siren-like soprano that infuses a strong sense of desperation, loneliness, and longing into each track The effect is both pleasing and slightly disconcerting on an emotional level when coupled with the lyrical content and the simplicity of the piano arraignments.
Fans of PJ Harvey have come to expect with each new release, they’re going to get to know her all over again. Such is the way with an artist completely willing to indulge her creative fancies, following them to their conclusion. White Chalk will test existing fans ability to follow Harvey – again, such is the way for an artist willing to take such risks. Here’s hoping they do and recognize the album for what it is, a masterpiece showcasing a artist at the pinnacle of her craft.
The first single, “When Under Ether,” is currently in rotation on radio stations around the world. You can hear more of White Chalk by heading over to: http://www.pjharvey.net/player/ or visit her Myspace Page to check out the single.