(Paris) A new song evokes a long-awaited savior: for the rock sphere, it’s all seen, PJ Harvey returns and the countdown begins before his oracles on record and on stage.
The Englishwoman, the only musician to have twice won the prestigious Mercury Prize in the United Kingdom, had not released an original studio album since 2016 and The Hope Six Demolition Project.
I Inside The Old Year Dying, a new album, is out this Friday and will be followed by a tour this fall.
Far from his opus Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea (2000), immediately consumable, it takes a little more time to savor this last delivery.
“In this album, PJ Harvey digs deeper into this shamanic vein with this timeless, tribal voice”, described for AFP Sophie Rosemont, author of Girls Rock, a book dedicated to female figures in rock culture.
Going against the current of flashy clips, the fifties plays on black and white for the videos of her first two titles published, A Child’s Question, August and I Inside The Old I Dying (the latter in animation).
“PJ Harvey, in the wake of a Kate Bush, stays away from society life, from the spirit of the times, freed”, continues the journalist and documentary filmmaker.
It is in I Inside The Old I Dying that it is about the return of a savior who makes all nature shiver. “She’s mystical, without falling into the new-age”, further deciphers Sophie Rosemont, who sees two big influences in this disc.
First the surrounding nature of the county of Dorset, a corner of England where the musician was born and still lives. In the piece Seem an I even appear a stream and the bleating of a distant herd, before a hypnotic rhythm is essential.
And then poetry. “She is a great lover of Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Hardy and she herself is an author of poetry”, unfolds the journalist and documentary filmmaker.
The texts of the 12 titles of I Inside The Old Year Dying derive from adaptations of the collection of poetry Orlam that PJ Harvey had signed in 2022. Some of the texts are also in the old dialect of Dorset.
“I think this album is about the quest, seeking the intensity of first love,” the singer-songwriter clarifies in the explanatory notes for her record.
His fans will find there the stripping of his first records, like Rid of Me (1993), without the electric guitar in front (even if the latter is still present).
This bewitching opus should guide future musicians, because we still measure its influence on the young British scene today. “She inspired musicians like Anna Calvi but also groups of lively skinned people like Fat White Family”, notes Sophie Rosemont.
We can also hear echoes of her work at Dry Cleaning, a group whose albums are produced by John Parish, a long-time collaborator of the singer, who can still be found at her service on I Inside The Old Year Dying.
Dry Cleaning, a group with a singer who imposes itself among musicians, as PJ Harvey has done more widely in the music industry for more than thirty years. “PJ Harvey is a very sexy guitar-heroine, fiercely independent, a powerful woman capable of swinging at a guy who thinks he’s too manly to leave her dry (Dry album, 1992)”, develops Sophie Rosemont.
“She is feminine, feminist, but not militant and has never hidden that a singer like Elvis Presley, yet all in masculinist clichés, mattered to her”, concludes the journalist. We also hear Love me tender. Tender love in the song A Child’s Question, August.