A Woman a Man Walked By
After the quiet, meditative piano ballads of White Chalk, one might expect PJ Harvey to strike back with something slightly more direct. But a few extroverted moments aside, she keeps her sound focused on the dream she’s imagining. John Parish has acted as both a band foil, playing co-producer and bandmate on her “solo” albums, and as a co-billed conspirator on 1996’s underrated Dance Hall at Louse Point, and here he adds his extra instrumental input to push Harvey further into the spotlight. “Black Hearted Love” begins things as the sort of melodramatic pop that Harvey plays with like a second nature. “Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen” whips up a gypsy chant with its acoustic emphasis. “Passionless, Pointless” sweeps into the ethereal supernatural space where Harvey’s voice defies gravity. “Daniel” is an eavesdropping into a mother’s psychic dislocation as a sense of loss overwhelms the moment. “Leaving California” swoops with a loopy sense of melody and Harvey’s near-mocking falsetto.