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music reviews

PJ Harvey White Chalk [Island Records]

Rating: 8.0

Rural Southwest England is where Polly Jean Harvey is originally from and it is where she has returned to after living abroad for several years. Her new album, White Chalk, is a stripped down, piano based recording that reflects the pastoral and remote setting where she once again resides. It is also the saddest thing that she has ever recorded. The songs are as bare as the chalkboard that the title suggests and her vocals lack much of their characteristic angst, howl and swagger. What’s more, they rarely gain any more volume than a low defeated whimper. However, Harvey has once again managed to cover ground that is unlike anything that she has previously done and her album, although at times painfully melancholy, is at the same time quite beautiful.