PJ Harvey: Let England Shake
Anticipation is always high for any new album from PJ Harvey.
Several artists proclaim the mantra 'I don't want to repeat myself', but few are as consistently true to their word as Polly Jean.
Her last album was mainly piano ballads, which was a radical departure, but with this album she is back to fronting a band, and was recorded an abandoned Dorset church, with long-time collaborators Flood, John Parish and Mick Harvey.
Stark images of war are the backdrop to many of these songs, but a disarmingly light tone to the vocals transforms this into a really impressive piece of work.
She has tried to reflect the effects of war by casting herself as an Englishwoman witnessing and coping with the appalling consequences of the centuries-old cycle of conflicts, but in doing so addresses feelings which are much more universal.
She offsets the darkness and impact of the lyrics with an almost jaunty air of musicality, which succeeds in underlining the futility of conflict and sacrifice.
This album is an awesome achievement, one which popular music often claims to be capable of, but rarely achieves.
There is no stand-out track, even after repeated listens, simple as! Totally engaging; this is PJ Harvey at her most ambitious and is her best in years.