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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
76
4.2 out of 5 stars
White Chalk
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£6.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime


on 26 April 2017
Good album, not one of my favourites
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on 21 March 2017
Always good always something challenging
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on 21 September 2007
I have not been a big fan of PJ Harvey but I have always respected what she does. I listened to this new album out of curiosity. However, something astonishing happened. From the first notes of the opening track I was spellbound. I listened to the whole album not quite believing what a work of genious I was introduced to and I certainly cannot say this for many albums from the first listen. I am not going to go into great detail. All I can say is that the album is a work of genious and an instant classic. Not a typical PJ Harvey album but a stand alone work of art. I very rarely write online reviews but listening to this album I felt compelled to write one. It may not be to everyone's taste but then again nothing is. The only words I can find to describe White Chalk would be haunting, mesmerising and out of this world.
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on 21 September 2007
Reactions to the surprise of PJ Harvey's eighth album seemed to fall into two camps: those who miss her 'classic' angry guitar-based sound and don't think that White Chalk represents the essence of what a P J Harvey album "should" be; and those who fell under its bleak, ethereal spell.

This time Harvey is seated at the piano and sings in fleeting songs (the whole album lasts less than 34 minutes) of loss, childhood, death, family and abortion, evoking a dusty atmosphere: "The devil wanders into my soul," she sings on the opener, and "Dear darkness, dear darkness, won't you cover, cover me - again?" on the next track. Broken Harp opens with a plea: "Please don't reproach me for how empty my life has become" while the title track sees her strolling in a desolate landscape, lonely and resigned: "Dorset's cliffs lead to the sea / Where I walked our unborn child in me". Families fall apart ("Daddy's in the corner, rattling his keys. Mummy's in the doorway trying to leave"); her dead grandmother is longingly apostrophed; and her mother is invoked to "teach me to grow".

Throughout Harvey sings in a higher register than usual, wailing and impaling herself in the highest reaches of her voice - childlike, fragile and introspective (an acquired taste it seems: some have hated her for this vocal change). The atmosphere feels naked and chilly, as if recorded in a dusty room lined with cobwebs and antique furniture, and recalls the ominous air of gothic novels like Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847). Even the cover, on which Polly looks like a Victorian governess in her puffed white dress and restrained pose, seems eerily reminiscent of a painting of another gothic hero: Edvard Munch's Puberty (1895).

Although it clearly represents a radical change of direction for Harvey, it is not an album without apparent influences, bearing traces of Marissa Nadler's Songs III: Bird on the Water, Nick Cave's dark tales, Björk's Vespertine and the breathy, lethargic vocals of Hope Sandoval. But Harvey nevertheless weaves her own cloth out of the thread, creating something sombre and dirge-like in the process. In a recent interview she explained that "The white chalk of the West Country hills was not consciously my inspiration at all for this record. I just like the sound of the words 'white chalk'. It can be millions of years old but erased in a second, and somehow has a timeless quality. The timelessness became more the source of inspiration." (4.5 stars)

Standouts: The Mountain, The Devil, Dear Darkness, The Piano
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on 23 September 2007
Where are the guitars? Where is the oft-imitated PJ Harvey aggressive growl? They're gone, and in their place is something strange and distant, driven by the piano and vocals that push the higher end of Polly Harvey's register. Lyrically it's downbeat - recurring images of death and loss abound. Somehow though it's far from depressing. Instead, it's an eerie and beautiful record that grips you from its opening chords, and its hold deepens with each listen. This is a great, great release from one of music's most distinctive voices.
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on 9 April 2015
With Let England Shake this is - in my opinion- the best PJ Harvey album. Shorn of the 'punky' elements of the earlier albums White Chalk is an album of dark, quiet beauty - one I can play all the way through without skipping a loud feminist diatribe. The sparse accompaniment by piano, accoustic guitar and a minumum of other instruments suits PJ Harvey's delicate pristine vocals well. Tracks like The Piano, White Chalk and the closing track are quite moving. Recommended if you like quiet, eerie and meaningful musical statements. On the downside the album's a little short (other accoustic beauties like Joanna Newsome's Ys benefited from extended tracks) and comes in a cheap card slipcase without lyrics.
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on 29 October 2007
Let's be honest - there are certain kinds of music and certain artists that the happy-clappy masses are never really going to get and, apart from her odd forays into the charts with one or two of her more accessible songs over the years, Polly Jean Harvey falls into this category. Moreover, it's probably fair to say that many of her fans have a greater-than-average fondness for music with life's darker sentiments at its heart.

I tried to listen to White Chalk when I first got it a couple of weeks ago, but I was in a pretty up-beat frame of mind and it just didn't sit well with me that night. In fact it started to pull me down a bit, and I almost decided that down-vibe music was not my thing any more.

However, we all hit bad days now and again and today was one of 'em for me, so I thought I'd take advantage of my low mood and give PJ another go. Make no mistake - this is music best listened to if you have some inner darkness that needs exorcising.

Wouldn't you know it - she sounds fantastic now. I put it on at about 11.00pm, it's now gone 1.30am and I can't stop playing it; God knows what time I'm going to get to bed tonight.

Only a truly great artist could produce an album that feels so insubstantial, sparse, fragile, at times even monotonous and uneventful, but still manages to captivate you immediately.

Polly Jean Harvey has done it again; what a gal.
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on 1 October 2007
It is not often that music or a musician moves me in such a way. I realize after my third listening that I have not taken a breath and let out a sigh and watch the birds flutter and flare away.
I sit very still a while and I feel i have sat in on a very personal moment with someone very special and I feel honored in this soul deep gift.
I cannot comment on the instruments used because I am no expert and only know that that this is a sound to be listened to and felt for it is a very beautiful sound.
Thank you Polly.
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on 6 April 2013
I've heard a little P J Harvey before but this is the first of her album's I've heard in its entirety. It's not like her previous work, she sings in a very high register and the lyrics are harder to make out. Initially I was put off but I've played it several times now and its really growing on me.

The only real criticism I might have is that the album is very short, just 33m, and I really, really would like more of the same but she changes her style dramatically for each album so I don't suppose she'll do another like this but I'll definitely be buying more of her work.
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on 29 October 2007
Blood and death, longing and loss, and waiting, always waiting for a love that will never be requited.

Yes, welcome to another happy-clappy PJ Harvey album!

As a long time PJ Harvey fan I approached this album with some trepidation - it was clearly going to be very different to her previous work.

The first listen was somewhat disappointing - the overall impression was of the songs sounding similar to each other. Further listening however has convinced me that this is one of the best, if not the best, albums she has ever done. It won't appeal to all the fans of her previous work as it is very much an album of hidden depths rather than the more 'in your face' approach of her previous albums.

Polly has always had a way with words, but here she excels herself, with many memorable lyrics. This is an album that rewards careful listening - it's definitely not background music.

Where on earth will she go from here?
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