Customer Review

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another dark beauty, 14 Feb. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Is This Desire? (Audio CD)
Is This Desire? has to be Polly Harvey’s most exotic, enigmatic and mysterious album. It’s full of open-ended narratives, puzzling riddles and unanswered questions that tease and tantalise the listener. It revolves around shadowy character studies of oddly named mystery women like Angelene, Leah and Elise, related either in hushed, secretive whispers or explosive banshee screams. Fittingly, it even ends on a note of unresolved doubt and unsatisfied questioning. There is a sense of intense sadness, loneliness and confusion running through these twelve songs. You can never quite get a handle on what these songs are about, but you never get sick of trying to figure them out. Such is the dark, contradictory beauty of PJ Harvey’s fifth album.
Is This Desire? inhabits a unique, claustrophobic sound-world completely of its own. Looped beats and robotic keyboard distortion recur throughout the songs. Here she moves further away from her guitar-driven roots to explore many different styles of music on this record: goth, jungle, industrial, and trip-hop. Rather than being based around the standard guitar-drums-bass lineup, these slow, strange mood pieces were painstakingly crafted, pieced together in the studio layer by layer. As another reviewer already stated, the emphasis is more on atmosphere and sonic landscapes than catchy rock riffs.
The first song Angelene sets the tone: it’s a devastatingly beautiful and surprisingly sweet ballad that blooms into an epic, velvety chorus of “2000 miles away”. Highlights are numerous from this point on: for starters, there’s the shrieking, feedbacking garage rock of The Sky Lit Up; the overdriven bass fuzz and twisted electronica of Joy, My Beautiful Leah or No Girl So Sweet; and the comparatively breezy, catchy single A Perfect Day Elise, with its driving momentum and sleek, glistening harmonies. The Garden is easily one of the most moving, beautiful songs she’s ever written, with its aquatic piano and taut breakbeats. The River pulls you in deeper and deeper with every listen; it has a chilling, dangerously seductive power and quiet force that resonates long afterwards. The woozy title track has only a few sparse beats and gently plucked guitar twangs, but manages to wring an intoxicatingly sensual atmosphere from this minimal instrumentation. The whole album is pure, sparkling, hypnotic black magic.
So what if it takes a little more getting used to than its very different follow-up Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea? This is an equally great album that should be recognised and appreciated far more. Do yourself a big favour and buy Is This Desire? now.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Dec 2013 00:09:10 GMT
Kaan Sensoy says:
Exactly. It is my favorite pj album and she admitted it will probably be the best record she'll ever made.
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