Notable new releases this week include another solid effort from underrated alternative rockers Band of Skulls “By Default”, new dance music from up and coming Australian electronic musician and producerFlume (and a bevy of guests) with “Skin”, spirited Toronto punk rockers PUP with “The Dream Is Over” and only because this is such a WTH release, the Monkees are dropping a new album “Good Times!”.
British alt-rocker PJ Harvey recently released her 9th album “The Hope Six Demolition Project”.  Harvey has evolved her sound over the years since her ’92 debut “Dry”.  Her music started out as loud, fierce and very raw guitar driven sound to slightly more polished but still alternative rock, to a much more stark and hushed tone.  On “White Chalk” she even learned how to play the piano and limited her songwriting to that instrument.  Her prior release before her latest album “Let England Shake” moved away from a personal-based songwriting approach to drawing more from current events.  With “The Hope Six Demolition Project”, Harvey continues to write songs from a different perspective, traveling to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington D.C. and writing songs about what she saw.  Parts of the new album were recorded in public as a type of art exhibit at London cultural center Somerset House.
I’ve been following Harvey since ’92 and I’m obviously a fan.  I haven’t been that into her last few albums though.  “The Hope Six Demolition Project” has evolved her sound back into a mode that I enjoy more, although still not quite as much as earlier albums.  Harvey has had a very interesting career, including coming close to a nervous breakdown in between her first and second albums.  She found a way to deal with the pressure though, and has accomplished quite a lot in her career.  She is the only artist that has won the Mercury Prize twice (awarded to best UK/Irish album of the year from a list of 12 nominees).  What I like the most about “The Hope Six Demolition Project” is the vibe on the album, it has a retro-sound but still has a contemporary element as well.  While I recommend checking out her new album, I also recommend going back and listening to any of her first 5-6 albums if you’re not familiar with her as an artist.  Here are two good tracks from “The Hope Six Demolition Project”.
“The Wheel” – First time I heard this on the radio, I wasn’t sure what I thought about it, but it quickly grew quite a lot on me.  This song almost has a campfire like vibe, it sounds very loose and spontaneous.  There’s energetic handclaps, ringing acoustic guitars, a nice horn section and a group singalong that standout on this track.  Now that imagery is stuck in my head – a great big campfire jam.

“The Community of Hope” –This song kicks off the new album and sets the tone for what to expect throughout the album.  Like “The Wheel”, this track has a raw and spontaneous feel.  Harvey has taken some flak for her lyrics on this track, which is based on her observations while in D.C.  If you listen, you’ll understand why there was some controversy.  Of course, Harvey’s observations were gathered over a day or two of driving around the city, not living there.  But many thought she was out of line and painted a bleak and unbalanced a picture.  Her words are strong though, and work well in the context of the song.  In addition to her interesting verses, the chorus is very strong on this song, with the minimal percussion and background vocalists coming in to provide a contrast to the verses.

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