Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

4.2 7
by PJ Harvey

Polly Jean Harvey has never settled long in one stylistic locale, and her evolutions have made her one of the most fascinating and important artists of the '90s. Her sixth album, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, forgoes the arty complexities of 1998's Is This Desire? for a stripped-down, guitar-based sound…  See more details below


Polly Jean Harvey has never settled long in one stylistic locale, and her evolutions have made her one of the most fascinating and important artists of the '90s. Her sixth album, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, forgoes the arty complexities of 1998's Is This Desire? for a stripped-down, guitar-based sound reminiscent of her first albums. Performed and produced by PJ Harvey, longtime drummer Rob Ellis, and ex-Bad Seed Mick Harvey, Stories is both a summing-up and a step forward. The frantic "Kamikaze," with its falsetto chorus, could fit comfortably on 1993's Rid of Me, and the obsessive blues of "This Is Love" bears traces of 1995's classic To Bring You My Love. But most songs explore new areas that balance tuneful harmonies, straightforward hooks, and poetic imagery (often of New York City, where Harvey spent half of 1999). "Beautiful Feeling" and "The Mess We're In," both of which feature Radiohead's Thom Yorke, are quietly tense but psychologically dense portraits of isolated lovers. "Good Fortune," on the other hand, is an optimistic anthem of the kind forged by Patti Smith. "This world's crazy, give me a gun," Harvey shouts on the album opener "Big Exit"; by the final track, "We Float," she's softly praying to "take life as it comes." Stories travels on a restless, provocative, and captivating journey, and it's an exciting continuation of P. J. Harvey's evolution.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Heather Phares
During her career, Polly Jean Harvey has had as many incarnations as she has albums. She's gone from the Yeovil art student of her debut Dry, to Rid of Me's punk poetess to To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire?'s postmodern siren; on Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea -- inspired by her stay in New York City and life in the English countryside -- she's changed again. The album cover's stylish, subtly sexy image suggests what its songs confirm: PJ Harvey has grown up. Direct, vulnerable lyrics replace the allegories and metaphors of her previous work, and the album's production polishes the songs instead of obscuring them in noise or studio tricks. On the album's best tracks, such as "Kamikaze" and "This Is Love," a sexy, shouty blues-punk number that features the memorable refrain "I can't believe life is so complex/When I just want to sit here and watch you undress," Harvey sounds sensual and revitalized. The New York influences surface on the glamorous punk rock of "Big Exit" and "Good Fortune," on which Harvey channels both Chrissie Hynde's sexy tough girl and Patti Smith's ferocious yelp. Ballads like the sweetly urgent, piano and marimba-driven "One Line" and the Thom Yorke duet "This Mess We're In" avoid the painful depths of Harvey's darkest songs; "Horses in My Dreams" also reflects Harvey's new emotional balance: "I have pulled myself clear," she sighs, and we believe her. However, "We Float"'s glossy choruses veer close to Lillith Fair territory, and longtime fans can't help but miss the visceral impact of her early work, but Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea doesn't compromise her essential passion. Hopefully, this album's happier, more direct PJ Harvey is a persona she'll keep around for a while.
Spin Magazine - Joshua Clover
...her new disc comes dressed in a blue pea-coat, sullied and torn by human immediacy. It still ends up in the heaven of great records.

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

PJ Harvey   Primary Artist,Bass,Guitar,Keyboards,Maracas,Vocals
Mick Harvey   Organ,Bass,Percussion,Drums,Harmonium,Keyboards,Background Vocals
Thom Yorke   Vocals
Rob Ellis   Synthesizer,Piano,Drums,Harpsichord,Keyboards,Electric Piano,Tambourine,Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Head   Engineer
PJ Harvey   Producer,Engineer
Mick Harvey   Producer
Rob Ellis   Producer

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Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i have been a fan of PJ's since her 1992 debut ''DRY''. amidst the dull, contrived landscape of the 'music industry', i thought that i could always count on PJ to create edgy, innovative works of art. i was wrong. this album is a huge disappointment and i cannot understand how any true fan of polly's former works can endorse or revere this album. the lyrical content is juvenile and cliched at best, the music is uninspiring, and the production atrocious. don't get me wrong, i have no problem whatsoever when an artist chooses to alter their musical direction. PJ has done this before brilliantly: from the edgy guitar hooks on 'dry' to the primal wail of 'rid of me' & '4 track demos' to the steamy flamenco influence on 'to bring you my love'. throughout these musical metamorphises, polly had managed to maintain her integrity and forge her own unique sonic territory. on this latest offering however, we find her moving towards that same flawless, overproduced, contrived sound that i went to her to ESCAPE from in the first place! this album is completely devoid of passion and that is quite sad. it is almost impossible to believe that the same woman who once wrenched at my guts with such words as: ''and i deserve it, i asked you for it. have to admit it, we dress like targets. ya, i deserve it, give me no leeway. i'll give you 5 dollars you can call me devil's gateway.'' --'EASY' from ''4 track demos'' is now writing lines as passive and meaningless as: ''we'll float and take life as it comes''. it sounds like something jewel or alanis morisette might have written (or any mediocrity for that matter). i hope on her next album polly gets off the prozac and gets real. she has such potential.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had never really payed much attention to PJ Harvey until I heard this album - it is amazing! It is honest, soulful and just my opinion her best album yet.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This record is about Polly doing something new. She has been quoted saying that this is almost an answer to 'to bring you my love' and 'is this desire?'. Lyrics and music are fresh and rythm driven. Her vocals are incredible, the whole album is really just whole and rich. I recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stories is, at first listening, terrible. The lyrics are cheese, the growl is gone, the production as slick and classy as the jacket cover. The deep belly-trembling rumble of past albums is no where to be found, and PJ seems to have fallen into the terrible, frightening world of adult contemporary blah. The second listen, however? Reminds you of the same genius muse that inspired U2's The Joshua Tree. The jangly guitar riffs are reminiscent of the Edge at his seemingly speed-driven best, the percussion is fluid and jazzy, the lyrics are profound in their simplicity, and the reverb as soft and welcoming as PJ's newfound maternal calm. This album feels like a new PJ -- a wise woman spreading her gospel with kindness, compassion, and maturity, instead of hisses, anger, and venom. Stories IS a story -- a new story in the life and the music of PJ Harvey. This album showcases a new depth to PJ's songwriting, with less forays into the cliched symbols (water, religion) of her last albums, and more fluidity and melody in her music. While the vast differences between the old and new Harvey are truly shocking, don't let it be a disappointment. Give Stories a few listens, and with time (and a little bit of compassion) you will realize the beauty of this older, wiser woman.
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