Full of bleak political indictments, the new PJ Harvey album has a pretty punishing sound. It’s not only prevalent in the politically-charged lyrics, but in the rhythm itself: urgent, ferocious, driving, insistent. Harvey’s last album Let England Shake saw the introduction of this frenzy to her music. It won her a second Mercury Prize in 2011.

Since the release of that album, she spent four years travelling with photojournalist Seamus Murphy, visiting places they picked out as being fascinating and topical: Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington, DC. Observing the dire, fragmented landscapes at the former two, the pair chronicled their observations in The Hope Six Demolition Project as well as in their poetry/photo-book, The Hollow of the Hand, released last year.

While the concrete images of the album are disturbing, the overall tone is energetic and compelling. Many of the songs are catchy: take for example, the album’s first single “The Wheel”, and “A Line in the Sand”, a bouncy song sung in sugary falsetto that wildly contrasts with the frankly upsetting lyrics.

The album is masterfully complex – and in its swooping energy and uncomfortable subject matter handled with bluntness and quiet optimism (“I believe we have a future to do something good”), it makes for quite an exhilarating trip.

Watch the video for the album's first single "The Wheel" below.

 

The Hope Six Demolition Project is out tomorrow. The Hollow of the Hand is available online at Bloomsbury.

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