For some, unknown reason, I find myself compelled to to binge-listen in the dark cold of February. Some album will call to me, and I'll find myself listening to it almost daily for a month (or more). I've tried, in the last few years to steer that desire towards something new, or under-appreciated in my collection—in a valiant attempt to avoid purely nostalgic comfort-listening.
2016 is the year I make peace with PJ Harvey's White Chalk. This LP has been a line in the sand for me (if you'll pardon the pun). I was deeply vested in Harvey's career up to this point, but just sort of lost the thread at Chalk, I've not paid much attention to what came after it, or best, half-heartedly tried to reconnect.
It's worth noting, I never really faulted Harvey's muse nor would ever claim White Chalk, or the albums since, were bad. They just… failed to connect with something inside me. Beyond the fact that I have an inherent faith in PJ Harvey as an artist, critical acclaim continued to pour in. I wasn't alone per se, it seems to be a divisive album among her fans, but I felt on the wrong side of history.
I was perhaps a tad afraid of being uncharitable. I've often argued that we give far more artistic leeway to male singers and pop stars than we do female. Women are expected to be catchy, attractive and sing nice-n-purdy. It would seem doubly offensive to not extend equal open-mindedness to a women who burst into our collective consciousness with such an openly feminist howl. She took a stylistic detour, let's see where it leads. Rather than leapfrogging over the problem album, I'm going to solve the problem. White Chalk: it's you and me, all winter long.