Monday, May 9, 2011

Big PJ Harvey geek-out time!

Running through PJ Harvey's album spread, from Dry to Let England Shake, she's not only one of the most versatile musicians around – a grungy soloist, a pop singer, a piano balladeer – but she's gone through enough phases to divide her audience into so many categories. Not in the Woody Allen sense, that she's had a clear cut “good period” and “bad period,” because she is too careful about her work to allow such a thing, but in the sense that one might prefer her wailing toughly to “Rub 'Til it Bleeds,” while another might prefer the delicate precision of her voice on “Is This Desire?” and a third might prefer the way she goes apeshit on “Taut.” How many singers or musicians could you say, with equal breath, are both tougher and more elegant than you? She stands alone, save, perhaps, for her frequent collaborator, John Parish, who works similar magic.

I'd first heard PJ Harvey at something like nine years old, when I caught Beavis and Butthead making Family Ties references (“hey look, it's Mallory”) during an airing of “50 Ft. Queenie.” Admittedly, I didn't give much thought to her except to associate her with Justine Bateman, until I rediscovered her at fifteen. And, my god, to run across 4-Track Demos saved me from what could have been additional years of MxPx and Sum 41. In her early 20s she sounded powerful, tough, quirky, aware of both her sexuality and her strength.

Since then, she's shown herself to be a brilliant singer not only due to her versatility, but because she's one of few singers who can effectively act with her voice. Sure, she can imitate, and she's garnered tons of Patti Smith comparisons – she also hiccups like Siouxsie on “Let England Shake,” and channels, of all people, Sarah Brightman on “On Battleship Hill.” But she acts. On “Shame,” she sounds shaken up. Listen to the desperation coming through “C'mon Billy” or “Send His Love to Me.” Or the comedienne that shines through her growls on “Maniac” and “Claudine, the Inflatable One.” I could go on for days. And it would be pointless because you already know how brilliant she is.

That said, while I'd love to promote the fuck out of Let England Shake, it seems to be faring just fine. So I'll share a recording of a concert that Harvey and her band performed in London in 2004, an acoustic show that includes, among others, a great version of the unreleased “Uh Huh Her” and a Fall cover.

PJ Harvey - Live in London 2004 (full download)

And of course, some marvelous bonus downloads:

PJ Harvey - Daddy

PJ Harvey - Airplane Blues (with John Parish)

PJ Harvey - Maniac

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Help me help Los Angeles!

Hello, all. Yes, times are slow here, musically, and yes, there will be more music to offer later this week. Good things, too. Very good things. In the meantime, if you have a spare moment and a spare dollar (or many - many are better than one), I'd be super, super, super happy if you stopped off at this page I've created in order to collect donations for the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.

If you're not a resident of Los Angeles, you can certainly put in a donation despite the fact. For some perspective, there are approximately 3.7 million people in Los Angeles, and an estimated 80,000 homeless in Los Angeles on any given night. Not counting those 80,000, consider the number of those who are housed and working or unemployed, simultaneously of a low enough income to require assistance. This is where organizations like the L.A. Regional Foodbank come in. I'm particularly proud to say that they redistribute perishable food through their Rapid Food Distribution and Extra Helpings programs, about which you can read up on here.

Donations can be made here. I've set a goal of $500, but would be thrilled to see that amount exceeded.