British singer PJ Harvey has never been one to be pigeonholed, and pity the foolish critic who attempts such a task. Whether she was wailing away unnervingly in her earlier years during Rid Of Me or being a refined rock star who supported U2 on tour, Harvey has always done her own thing and forged her own path.
As a result, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that White Chalk is another interesting slice of Harvey that is calmer but just as pleasing beginning with “The Devil” and continuing on with “Dear Darkness.” Perhaps the album brings to mind her “Dance Hall At Louse Point” period most clearly during the carnival-tinged “Grow Grow Grow” that is quirky, unsettling and yet strong. Throughout it all, Harvey plays the light, airy vocals to a tee, especially on the haunting, retro-laced title track.
Not everything comes up smelling like roses though, especially the awkward “Silence” which is part-Celtic, part-world and rarely alluring. But “The Piano” is worth its salt, a gentle lullaby-textured tune with Harvey providing her strongest performance here.