PJ Harvey: Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea

PJ Harvey: Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea

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PJ Harvey

Album: Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea

Though her critical reputation hasn't lost momentum, Polly Jean Harvey hasn't made an especially compelling album since 1995's gutsy, bluesy breakthrough, To Bring You My Love. A virtually forgotten collaboration with John Parish (Dance Hall At Louse Point) doesn't have to count, but 1998's Is This Desire? does: Tinged with electronics, it's forgettable bordering on dispiriting. The fact that it seems to follow a five-year hiatus makes her new Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea seem especially revelatory, but it'd be remarkable even if it didn't benefit from compromised expectations. The album drags a bit near the end, but there's not a bad song on it, bursting out of the gate with the instant classic "Big Exit" before stringing together a bevy of strong material. But Stories From The City doesn't fully reveal itself as a classic until its astonishing midsection, particularly the rip-roaring "Whores Hustle And The Hustlers Whore" and the breathtaking "This Mess We're In." The former is one of the most bracing, thrilling songs of Harvey's career, and it's followed immediately by the latter, a gorgeous duet with Radiohead's Thom Yorke, who in a span of three weeks can boast appearances on two of the year's best albums. To Bring You My Love may have been Harvey's mainstream breakthrough after the sleeper success of Dry and the caustic Rid Of Me, but Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea is her most accessible. Time will tell for sure, but it may even be her best, and that's saying a lot.