PJ Harvey is one of the most respected, challenging musicians of our time. Full-stop.
“The West’s asleep. Let England shake/weighted down with silent dead,” PJ Harvey sings on Let England Shake, the title track of her new album out this week, Harvey’s eighth long player over a twenty year career. As with each previous release, the record introduces a new musical benchmark – though never consciously; the effect of an artist always pushing herself creatively, each collection of songs receptive to Harvey’s vivid leanings at the time.
Let England Shake introduces a more outward looking work conceptually and lyrically, beyond emotional or relationship narratives. Taking in Britain today and channelling the nation of centuries ago, the creaking soul of the country and a history etched in the collective subconscious; unrest, turmoil, war and beyond. It’s her most human, universal work yet.
And it’s with each record that comes a new wardrobe, encapsulating the mood. From the theatrical edge – lycra and smeared make-up – of 1995′s To Bring You My Love, the Todd Lynn suit and PVC miniskirt and boots sexcess of 2000′s Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea to the Spice Girls t-shirt dress at Glastonbury 2004, the era of 2003’s self-produced release Uh Huh Her.
2011’s Let England Shake sees Harvey and her band dressed by Antwerp’s Ann Demeulemeester. Both clothes and record are romantic, charged and honest; marrying with hand-in-glove ease. The singer has also collaborated with award winning photo-journalist Seamus Murphy, known for his images of life in Afghanistan, on a series of short films premiered on Harvey’s website.
Live, sold-out, performances are lined up for Brussels, Berlin, Paris, London, New York, Lisbon, Amsterdam and more with PJ Harvey already high on festival wishlists this summer – confirmed for Coachella and France’s Main Square Festival.