• Record Label: Island
  • Release Date: Sep 25, 2007
Metascore
80

Generally favorable reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 38
  2. Negative: 1 out of 38
  1. White Chalk is more chamber music, and a dark chamber at that. The only flickers of light come from Harvey’s voice: high, airy, and imperiled as she weaves her echo-coated and darkly soulful spell till the story’s bleak finale.
  2. This yet again reveals PJ Harvey to be one of the UK's greatest contemporary songwriters.
  3. Harvey’s audio experiments are celebrated with the release of each new album. But I wonder what she would do without any limitations.
  4. With its bones on show and chest wide open, White Chalk may not be the greatest album of all time, it may not be to everyone's tastes, and it may not even be Polly’s finest. But let it and it'll haunt you.
  5. Frustratingly, though, White Chalk isn't consistent enough to be a classic PJ album, and if you're new to her music, this isn't the ideal place to start.
  6. On the right day, at the right time, the album's powerfully claustrophobic intimacy is more palatable; on the wrong day, at the wrong time, in the wrong frame of mind, White Chalk may be the longest half-hour in the world.
  7. I can think of nothing more liberating than to dive into its dark waters.
  8. White Chalk, wholly self-contained and uncompromised, is a work of literary depth and complexity.
  9. Nothing Harvey has done in the past, however, can prepare you for her eighth album, White Chalk, whose cover is as singular as the tunes therein.
  10. Constantly brilliant. White Chalk is an amazing album, racked with beauty, stricken with fragility and haunted with something otherworldly.
  11. 80
    An album of lonely beauty and piercing sorrow, White Chalk is P.J. Harvey back at the peak of her considerable powers.
  12. It rivals "Dance Hall at Louse Point" for its willingness to challenge listeners, but it's far removed from "Uh Huh Her," which was arguably more listenable but a lot less remarkable. In fact, this may be Harvey's most undiluted album yet.
  13. It's stronger and more assertive than 2004's "Uh Huh Her."
  14. The austerity of Harvey's self-imposed constraints is uncompromising but rewarding; she forces herself out of her comfort zone, and takes the listener with her.
  15. Even by her own unsettling standards, however, her seventh album is disturbing, a collection of smudged and spectral laments that appear to have been written before the invention of penicillin.
  16. There's not a weak track here, and on close inspection each song could be singled out as a highlight if debased from the album.
  17. Polly has always done well to play outside her comfort zone, and in doing so on this album, she crafts a reminder more effective than her return-to-form attempt on "Uh Huh Her."
  18. Put in context, White Chalk serves her purposes, much as Bruce Springsteen’s "Nebraska" served his. On initial listen, the album is not a step forward, nor is it a step back, but rather a lateral move intended to leave breathing room for her next attack.
  19. The painful White Chalk is either a studio experiment gone horribly wrong or a crafty bit of career self-sabotage by a sensitive artist who'd rather make sculptures in the desert than play pop star.
  20. They're still about the classic Harvey tropes of repression and longing, but Chalk's fixated on death and madness, at times feeling claustrophobic in its emptiness.
  21. 84
    But without a doubt the change on White Chalk is steps beyond those we have seen from PJ in the past, which makes one question her intent.
  22. Over the course of eleven songs of grim predestination, virtually no modernizing or even identifying signposts are allowed to disturb the terrain.
  23. On the largely piano-based White Chalk, she retreats into an odd little-girl-lost persona, singing almost entirely in a tremulous higher key that strangles the most powerful instrument in her arsenal: that voice.
  24. Harvey's mostly bare arrangements, stark vocal delivery and razor-sharp lyrics add up to a poignant, haunting rumination on what makes--and breaks--a life
  25. White Chalk shifts between comforting melancholy and supremely discomforting performativity with preternatural ease.
  26. As usual, the excellent mix--opaque but sunlit--helps; as usual, we eagerly await her next album.
  27. The music is positively spectral, as if she's set up her sound board in the spaces where her absent lover, unborn child, and grandmother used to be.
  28. This album will still take away the breath you aren't holding: It's at once bleak, aching, and insidiously beautiful.
  29. White Chalk is as penetrating as the loudest, fiercest moments on previous albums, but less from moments of aggression than from a chilling atmosphere of restrained frenzy.
  30. Harvey has one of the most forceful voices around, but here she relies on her silk-thin upper register to create a delicate album that skates across despair without ever quite sinking into it.
  31. Beautiful, arcane, unsettling--and that's only the cover. White Chalk isn't so much a record, as a great effort at dragging you into another world.
  32. The album will puzzle some fans with its uncharacteristic sound, but it will surely intrigue many more. [Fall 2007, p.73]
  33. 80
    It's a brave and brilliant refocusing of her energies, virtually a rebirth. [Oct 2007, p.91]
  34. It's so alluring you have no choice but to follow. [Oct 2007, p.98]
  35. 70
    There's a coiled power here equal to Harvey's more muscular stuff. [Oct 2007, p.95]
  36. 60
    Refining the spare sound of her last studio album "Uh Huh Her," she herein presents an 11-part song cycle about loss, longing and wandering bereft through the moors. [Oct 2007, p.108]
  37. Harvey's new strategy has been successful although White Chalk might be something of a curio, it's certainly her most haunting work. [Oct 2007, p.60]
User Score
8.5

Universal acclaim- based on 79 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 35
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 35
  3. Negative: 0 out of 35
  1. DamonMitchell
    Nov 13, 2007
    10
    I haven't had my heart so beautifully broken in a long time. This feels like the end of a trilogy in "Stories from..." she was in love I haven't had my heart so beautifully broken in a long time. This feels like the end of a trilogy in "Stories from..." she was in love with a boy and America, in "Uh Huh Her" the love affair was over but she had enough anger and fire to spit about it, in "White Chalk" the fire is out and it's an empty place where what's left really resonates. Full Review »
  2. PatrickWheeler
    Nov 6, 2007
    9
    Not since Rid Of Me in the early nineties has a PJ album struck a chord so strongly with me. I am roughly the same age as Polly and she seems Not since Rid Of Me in the early nineties has a PJ album struck a chord so strongly with me. I am roughly the same age as Polly and she seems to be in the same head space as me right now. So few artists have the guts to be this honest and not worry about upsetting fans who expect reiteration. Only To Bring You My Love is a more complete album. If you haven't heard Polly before get TBYML, then: Is This Desire?, then White Chalk. Full Review »
  3. Ryan
    Oct 30, 2007
    9
    Quickly becoming my favorite PJ album, along with To Bring You My Love, though not at all similar. Its bony, preternatural anti-glow of Quickly becoming my favorite PJ album, along with To Bring You My Love, though not at all similar. Its bony, preternatural anti-glow of lonely inner struggle is so compelling my jaw was dropped after the second listen. The only reason I don't give it a 10 is because I, as any fan of this beguilingly beautiful album should, just hope her next is even better. Full Review »