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White Chalk

91 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 2, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

White Chalk is Pj Harvey's eighth studio album and first new material since 2004's critically acclaimed Uh Huh Her. Pj Harvey went into the studio late last year to record and produce with Flood and John Parish. The three had worked together previously on the Grammy nominated To Bring You My Love and on Is This Desire? White Chalk also includes musical contributors from Harvey's long time associate Eric Drew Feldman, and Jim White from The Dirty Three.

This carnival ride to the netherworld of the soul is PJ Harvey's most dizzyingly radical work since the raw pulse and grind of her 1993 debut. It's also entirely different. Harvey's created an emotionally fractured Gothic fairytale that rides on her spare, tattered piano playing and her voice, which she turns into a fragile siren's call: high, airy, and imperiled, and made otherworldly by a labyrinth of echo. Instead of pop tunes, Harvey offers an 11-song cycle that's the metaphorical story of a breakup in which the Devil, a drug-induced nightmare, and a seemingly bottomless pit of despair all play a part. At the end, in "The Mountain," her banshee wails conclude a journey so oblique it's worthy of David Lynch or Neil Gaiman. Flood, who co-produced Harvey's 1998 epic rock breakthrough Is This Desire? with her, reprises that role, but White Chalk is more chamber music--and a dark chamber at that. --Ted Drozdowski

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
  1. The Devil 2:56$0.99  Buy MP3 
  2. Dear Darkness 3:09$0.99  Buy MP3 
  3. Grow Grow Grow 3:21$0.99  Buy MP3 
  4. When Under Ether 2:22$0.99  Buy MP3 
  5. White Chalk 3:06$0.99  Buy MP3 
  6. Broken Harp 1:57$0.99  Buy MP3 
  7. Silence 3:05$0.99  Buy MP3 
  8. To Talk To You 4:00$0.99  Buy MP3 
  9. The Piano 2:36$0.99  Buy MP3 
10. Before Departure 3:45$0.99  Buy MP3 
11. The Mountain 3:10$0.99  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 2, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Island
  • ASIN: B000SFYUV2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,685 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Vargiu Riccardo James on April 24, 2010
Format: Audio CD
Upon listening to this album in 2007, when it first came out, I immediately realized that there was something special about it, and thought it would continue to speak to me year in and year out. Some time has elapsed, and I can say that my prediction has held true thus far. White Chalk is a jewel, one of those rare works of art that transcend genre and give voice to emotion with impeccable intellectual honesty.

PJ Harvey delivers a collection of eleven perfect tracks, which combine to form a moving, if mysterious, story of abandonment and sorrow, of gloom and doom. Whereas the overall narrative may be elusive -- it's hard to say whether the premise is the loss of a child and subsequent departure of a companion, the demise of one parent and folly of the other as witnessed by a young girl powerless to keep disaster at bay, betrayal and heartbreak, or none/all of the above -- one track passes the torch to the next, creating a seamless succession of scenes. These are without doubt pages ripped out of the same book, where cohesion and absolute integrity are used to good effect.

With commendable lyricism, mastery of the language worthy of the best poets, brevity both beautiful and intense, PJ Harvey depicts a journey not from here to there, but from one state of despair to another. Half ghost town in the West, half heath in Dorset, this is a lonely place, yet one many adults will inhabit sooner or later. The mood is dark, but also uniquely epic (not dissimilar to some passages of Britten's The Turn of the Screw, although the comparison may seem far-fetched to some).
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Example: Mark Twain on October 17, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Can't say why this album appeals to me so much, I wasn't expecting to like it. "Is This Desire?" was the last thing she put out that I enjoyed, and I'd kind of given up on her (and music in general). Currently, though, "White Chalk" is possibly my favorite Harvey album to date. The production is simple, unadorned, perfect for the songs. The arrangements are sparse, but extremely subtle and well conceived. Hardly ever do I hear an album where I feel like every note and drum beat has been placed exactly where it needs to go, with nothing extra and nothing left out. Leaves me a bit floored, actually.

As for the lyrics: yeah, they're hell for bleak and depressing and uber-personal. On another album they might be too much for me to take, but here, with this music, she manages to make it work (for MY earholes, at least). An album so clearly private and confessional, I feel lucky just to be privy to its contents.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Paul D. Sandor on October 2, 2007
Format: Audio CD
PJ Harvey provides more drama in one album than most artists create in a career. Ms. Harvey has just taken her meloncholic trip to another level. White Chalk is a tremendous achievement. With timeless instruments and ghost-like vocals PJ harvey has created one of the finest albums of 07.

Through layers and layers of atomsphere, Harvey spins a world of her own. A world out of time. Much like Neutral Milk Hotel's In the aeroplane over the sea and Nick Drake's Pink Moon, White Chalk has no peers in modern music. These three albums could have been released anytime over the last fifty years.

Throughout White Chalk, Harvey's voice quivers over the delicate tinkling of an old piano. PJ has put away her electric guitar and scaled back her famous howl to whispering heights. Harvey wills her piano to tell a sad story in the same way she could bend the notes blue on her guitar.

The song White Chalk is one of the best of her career. One pictures a ghost-like figure searching the English moors for yesterday's answers; Answers just beyond her reach. Other highlights include: the disturbing Dear Darkness, the graceful Silence and the unrestrained (finally) The Mountain.

White Chalk uses quiet effects to affect listeners and this makes it one of the finest releases of 2007.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By bigwhitewhale on October 4, 2007
Format: Audio CD
This is an album that you need to listen to a couple of times - you'll see, it will grow. You'll be humming the songs and not know where they came from. It's different from what she's done before; I would associate it with most of 'Is This Desire' - and 'The Slow Drug' from 'Uh Huh Her'. So if you liked those albums and are willing to give this one time, you'll probably like it. If you like the rockier stuff, you can always still pick up her brilliant but overlooked '4-Track Demos' from 1993.
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52 of 67 people found the following review helpful By JAMES AGNEW on October 12, 2007
Format: Audio CD
If I'd listened to some of the reviews I've read I would never have bought "White Chalk," but now I realize that the reviewers dismissed it because they couldn't hear it. The "real" PJ Harvey is categorized in the ossified mind as the punky, guitar happy howler of classic work like "Is This Desire?" She's celebrated for being an artist, but paradoxically criticized for daring to change, to follow her bliss, the reaction akin to that of horrified McDonald's patrons if they bit into Big Macs made of Filet Mignon. The burger might actually be wonderful, but it just wouldn't "taste right" because it wasn't what they expected. "White Chalk" isn't "Is This Desire?" (One of my favorite records), but it's great in its own right.

A lot of contemporary music grows tedious by the first minute - O.K., I get it, you want more, Britney - but White Chalk has been my constant soundtrack for the last week, and, despite being only about thirty-four minutes long, hasn't palled a bit. There's a minor key, folksy feel to it, from the acoustic instruments to the restrained, whispery sound of PJ's matchless voice, the lyrics suggesting old murder ballads and overheard confessions. It's autumnal, just right for this time of year, spooky and haunting, a suite of sepia toned chamber music in the key of regret, nostalgia and dread. The same way a whisper makes you listen more actively than a shout,the quiet complexity of White Chalk remains intriguing -- there's something to it, something that moves and engages, shaded rather than hid, making the whole profound and real in a world that so often prefers sameness and plastic pretension.
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