PJ Harvey Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea

PJ Harvey has never sounded quite so content. Here, on her sixth full-length, she is clearly feeling full of life and love. The sixth month stay in Manhattan obviously suited her, allowing Harvey to live, breathe, and have a little fun while gathering new energies and sources to reference. Stories is easily her most focussed, powerful work since 1992's Dry. Songs are lush yet stripped to their musical essentials, lyrics written as poetry, and Harvey's voice has never been a stronger instrument. Long-time collaborators Mick Harvey and Rob Ellis add all other sounds, the trio's familiarity with one another resulting in an incredible warmth, even while the production leans towards a clean precision. Love is clearly the drug here, with pieces such as the Patti Smith-riffing first single "Good Fortune" absolutely dripping in joy. "This Is Love" takes it to a simpler place, with Harvey grinning through the guitar riffs and lyrics like "I can't believe life's so complex, when I just wanna sit here and watch you undress." Life for lust indeed. "Beautiful Feeling" strips a similar sentiment bare, Thom Yorke singing backup to Harvey's strong lead. Yorke returns on the achingly beautiful "The Mess We're In," the two Brits exchanging the most intense vocal interplay any fan could ever hope to hear. Like all great songwriters, PJ Harvey knows how to share a story. This album, alternately reminding of Patti, Kurt Cobain, and a whole host of great blues singers, demonstrates that PJ Harvey continues to develop her craft. I, for one, have a renewed appreciation. (Island)