Monday, December 03, 2007

White Chalk

pj harvey, white chalkThe eighth full-length release from Ms Harvey, this is sparse and hauntingly powerful stuff. Nothing rockist about this one at all: no electric guitars, no bass and minimal drums. Instead, a bit of plucked guitar or strummed autoharp but mostly piano, lots of the piano she taught herself to play over the past three years and on which many of the songs were composed. Her voice sounds different too: lighter, airier, almost childlike. (Which she can of course pull off because unlike, say, Joanna Newsom, PJ can actually sing.) Yet all the classic PJ obsessions are there, perhaps even moreso this time around. Take those haunting piano numbers on Cat Power's You Are Free and with the same intensity do a whole CD of them that clocks in just under 34 minutes -- surprise, you thought time stopped for a moment, didntya? -- and you've about got the picture. I'll leave the final word to AMG's Heather Phares: "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."

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