PJ Harvey

White Chalk

Polly Jean Harvey's seventh album, White Chalk, is an unembellished reflection of her creative strengths. Now more than 15 years deep into her storied career, Harvey hasn't produced a truly innovative sound since her 1995 masterwork To Bring You My Love. Instead, she explicates her ideas with workmanlike confidence, pairing with Australian trio Dirty Three for White Chalk, a thing of dark beauty reminiscent of Cat Power. At 33 minutes and 11 tracks, it's all piano and sharp lyrical fusillades such as the title track's "Scratch my palms there's blood on my hands." She makes casual, seemingly autobiographical revelations, from the homage to her late grandmother on "To Talk to You" to imagining death on "Before Departure." Harvey possesses such magnetic presence and a lovely voice, however, that she could sing entries from a phone book and sound wondrous. 4 stars.