PJ Harvey back with “Let England Shake”
“Written on the Forehead”
PJ Harvey has never been one to remain stylistically still, moving from gutted, grimy dreampop swirl to raging Albini scrape to elegantly cinematic post-blues torch songs in the space of her first three albums. But in a career that’s spanned nearly 20 years, she’s never sounded quite like she does on “Written on the Forehead”. Here, she ditches her doomsaying moan-roar for an upper-register coo, letting her voice peacefully float over a gently lilting beat and a spaced-out organ drone. A sample of Niney the Observer’s reggae classic “Blood and Fire” fills the background, with Harvey sometimes singing along, and the lyrics are all surreal end-of the-world scene-setting: “People throw belongings and lifetime’s earnings amongst the scattered rubbish, suitcases on the sidewalk.” It’s always hard to tell with Harvey, but the song seems to describe some sort of surreal Armageddon– not exactly out of character for her. But the mood isn’t fierce or vengeful. Instead, it’s calm, wistful, nostalgic– Harvey sounding like she’s leafing through an old photo album. She sounds gentler, more tender than she ever has before. It stands to reason: The world’s end would be the thing that brings out PJ Harvey’s soft side.
— Tom Breihan, December 2, 2010
[from Let England Shake; out 02/14/11 via Vagrant / Island]