PJ Harvey’s ninth album was recorded in sessions that were open to the public at the museum Somerset House in London. Exhibit attendees could see Harvey creating the album with producers Flood and John Parish through a one-way mirror. The results continue in her tradition of excellence, producing songs that sound lush and layered, yet loose and free, with a strong social commentary running through on songs like “The Wheel” (“Now you see them, now you don’t,” she sings of disappeared and killed children around the world). Harvey wrote these 10 songs after she traveled to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington, D.C., for inspiration, and the kind of oppression and suffering she witnessed fuels her songwriting, as she sings of “the pain of 50 million years” on “The Orange Monkey” and in “The Community of Hope,” in which her criticism of rebuilt housing projects that displaced residents who could no longer afford it drew the ire of D.C. politicians. Though the composition of Hope Six is certainly interesting and proves Harvey continues to be a firebrand, ultimately the final product is what matters most to fans. Thankfully, the music is as powerful as ever. As can attest the muscular guitars that back songs “The Ministry of Defense,” the wailing sax that tears through “The Ministry of Social Affairs,” the rousing choruses her band delivers throughout the album and Harvey’s soulful vocals that close out the album on “Dollar, Dollar,” The Hope Six Demolition Project more than delivers on its premise.
Hey! It’s almost spring. That means a ton of great albums are on the way. Check out this list of 20 that we’re looking forward to.
The alt-rock trio’s third album was recorded in the band’s native Wales. Check out the fun video for “The Last Thing on my Mind” below, which flips the tables on the female objectification. (It’s kinda NSFW.)
The former lead singer of Husker Du and Sugar’s latest album is a “triumph of opposing forces and properties” from “the master of balancing personal darkness with melodic brightness,” according to a press release. Watch the video for the introspective “Voices in My Head” below.
Photo by Maria Mochnacz
The album was recorded in sessions that were open to the public at the museum Somerset House in London, as Pitchfork has reported. Exhibit attendees could see Harvey creating the album with producers Flood and John Parish through a one-way mirror. They also yielded this amazing photo of Harvey playing the saxophone!
I have to admit to being a bit skeptical of the process. Having been a fan for years, I have always loved how meticulously created and recorded her albums are, not least of which was her last album 2011’s Let England Shake, one of the strongest of her career. This approach seemed interesting but bound to distract, no?
Mute Records just wrapped their recent run of Nick Cave reissues, including the first-ever North American release of eleven classic albums on 180 gram heavyweight vinyl, dating back to 1984’s From Her To Eternity. Remastered by founding member of the Bad Seeds Mick Harvey, the rereleases started coming in December 2014 and continued on into spring 2015.
When you’ve spent years working in record stores, it’s almost impossible to answer the perennial question, “So, what’s your favorite band?” For a while I had about five bands I would answer this question with, then slowly (probably after finally realizing most people asking this had no idea who I was talking about) I refined my answer to, “I guess Nick Cave.” I “guess” this is because his songwriting is literate, dark, sometimes slyly humorous, and always fiery and unabashed. I “guess” it’s because his aesthetic concerns include haunted Southern Gothic imagery and brutal Revisionist Western stories—basically it’s like someone started writing music, films and books tailored entirely towards my interests. (According to the internet, he also shares my less intense beliefs in the importance of cat art and telling people to “just Google it.”) So in the mid ‘90s when the song “Red Right Hand” gradually lurked its way into my teenage consciousness through repeated exposure via The X-Files movie soundtrack and the approximately two dozen crappy teen horror flicks it was used in (ok, a quick internet search reveals that it was pretty much only Scream), my curiosity was piqued.
During the summer of 1996, I became obsessed with Portishead. Dummy had been released two years earlier, so generally speaking, I was late to the game, but in the suburban town where I was about to start high school, I was definitely way ahead of the game. Because when it came to underground music, culture or film, there was no game.
I was just about to turn fifteen and leave all the friends I'd known for nearly a decade to attend the state's largest high school on my own. It was a deeply mopey time. At the same time, I was starting to realize that the music on Top 40 radio made me feel like something was missing, that musically-speaking, there must be more out there. So, I started tuning into the local alt-rock station after school, alone in my room, and that's where I first encountered Portishead's "Sour Times."
Portishead - Sour Times
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I hated this song. I thought it was irritating and abrasive. Singer Beth Gibbons would wail "Nobody loves me/it's true/not like you do" with her '60s jazz influenced vocals and I would get pissed off that I'd have to sit through it for the next three or four minutes. (For some reason I never went as far as actually turning the radio off.) Every time I heard it, I would get angry at it, angry that I had to sit through it, angry that the station's Music Director had poisoned the rotation with this grating, slightly terrifying few minutes of song.