Wednesday, September 26, 2007

White Chalk

Honestly, you wait ages for a decent record then two turn up at once.

Hot on the heels of Joni Mitchell comes Polly Harvey with her latest album, White Chalk. And like Mitchell, Harvey is someone determined not to rest on her laurels. This album finds her abandoning her guitar for piano and an array of string instruments (by which I mean zithers and autoharps rather than violins), as well as abandoning her growly, bluesy voice for a much higher, purer tone, almost like a choirboy.

This is the sort of sound that chimes very well with all sorts of things I've been thinking of lately, so it may be that I'm feeling particularly receptive, but this album's absolutely brilliant. To step so far out of one's comfort zone is an achievement in itself, to do it with such aplomb and success is astonishing. It's also strangely uplifting, in a macabre sort of way. I've loved Polly's music for a very long time, and my admiration for her has grown pretty consistently with each new release, but it's rocketed with this one. To be able to come to this from "Rid of Me" all those years ago puts her into the same league as Joni.

Two wonderful albums from two fantastic musicians in one week is a rare treat. Just to reassure you that the world hasn't suddenly started making sense, there's a new Westlife album on the way. Can't win 'em all.

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