Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Some of My Favorite Artists (1): Pj Harvey

I first encountered Polly Jean Harvey on David Byrne's old PBS music showcase, Sessions at West 54tha terrific series that featured up-and-coming artists. Through that show, I also began love affairs with Chocolate Genius and Tricky,  two other amazing musicians I also saw for the first time.

I had never seen anyone quite like her.  She had a beautifully harsh, controlled voice that she used to maximum effectiveness, screaming, hiccuping, shouting --while holding in her hands this huge, obscenely loud guitar despite her skinny, slight frame. At first glance, I thought she was physically homely, but her intensity and ferociousness made me quickly appreciate her image. She was womanly-- but not feminist. Her hyper wails of anger and frustration mingled with an aggressive sexuality.  

Harvey is an artist that continues to evolve.  Her first albums, Dry and Rid Of Me were all about raw, punkish rock n' roll, but her third disc, the critically acclaimed To Bring You My Love, despite having some effective rockers, was more experimental and varied in tone.  

Is This Desire? A near-concept record, had a quiet, folky atmosphere with beautiful, wistful songs.  Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and Uh Huh Her, were  a return to a more rock oriented sound, though more commercial.  Her last album, White Chalk, is another subdued affair with a dark, gothic tone.   

An eccentric character, Harvey always continues to surprise. 

Favorite Songs: Victory, Happy and Bleeding, Legs, Rub 'Til It Bleeds,  50 Foot Queenie, Snake, Rid Of Me, To Bring You My Love, Meet Ze Monsta, Working For The Man, Electric Light, The River, Catherine, Big Exit, The Mess We're In

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