B-Sides: PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey is no stranger to this blog. She has consistently distanced herself from feminism as such, but our love for her is inescapable. Her music is about independence—from marriage ("The Pocket knife,"),  from judgement ("Who the Fuck?")—and her vision for her autonomous career has never faltered in 20 years of music-making. Now she's got a new album, Let England Shake, coming out February 15th, and a short film to be released with EVERY SONG on the album! If you, like me, believe there is no such thing as too much Polly Jean, this is the B-sides for you.

Another favorite not-feminist-but-really-quite-feminist musician listening to Harvey's work lately? Patti Smith, who had this to say about "The Words that Maketh Murder," the first single from the new album:

"[I've been] listening to Polly Harvey's new song - she has this new song, 'The Words That Maketh Murder' - what a great song. It just makes me happy to exist. Whenever anyone does something of worth, including myself, it just makes me happy to be alive. So I listened to that song all morning, totally happy."

The short film released to coincide with "The Words that Maketh Murder" was shot and directed by Seamus Murphy. The video is an exploration of England, Harvey's country of origin and the muse for Let England Shine. Check it out here or below:

Murphy had this to say about the creation of the film:

"The film for "The Words That Maketh Murder" is one of a series of 12 shorts to accompany the 12 songs that make up PJ Harvey's forthcoming album, Let England Shake. The album is a dense world of Polly's vision, but what interested me most was exploring the eccentricity and enigma of England. The present exists in a complicated relationship with the past and England's island status, and her relationship to her land, geography and tradition is fundamental to the country's psyche. Contemporary England springs from colonial adventures, military ambitions and industrial prowess. It is also shaded by fading power and its military role in modern geopolitics."

This is what has defined Harvey since her career began in 1993: her desire (and the talent to support it) to constantly change her image, her sound, and her message from album to album and even song to song. She has enough music under her belt to have tackled acoustic rock, dream pop, electronica, and even Broadway. And now her award-winning songwriting is focused on conflict, homeland, and war. Here is another of Murphy's videos from Let England Shake, "The Last Living Rose":

Harvey's goal with this album, she says, was to write as though she were an "official song correspondent," bringing news of conflict home to the people from the front lines. A lofty project, certainly, and one not many songwriters would announce their intentions for. I haven't heard the whole album yet, but I'm hopeful. Harvey's is a voice I trust to tell me about the world. What do you think of Let England Shake so far?

by Katie Presley
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Bitch Media's Music Editor. As heard on BBC, CBC, and NPR's All Songs Considered and, very occasionally, Pop Culture Happy Hour. I've always wanted to be a talking head in a feminist documentary or commercial, so if someone out there can make that dream a reality, I'm here for it.

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3 Comments Have Been Posted


February 15th cannot come soon enough! BAH!

Polly Jean

I love PJ Harvey. The imagery in "The Last Living Rose" video is beautiful.

Side note: I tried a while ago to come up with a related-derby name...but 'PJ Scarvey" sounds too much like 'scurvy'.

Autoharp punk

I love seeing her play the autoharp! I remember my elementary-school choir teacher had one and it seemed so dorky at the time (although who was I to judge, a chubby clarinet player). What a gorgeous sound it makes in "the words that maketh murder". I'm excited to see her live and to hear the full dispach from our official song correspondent.

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