White Chalk

  • 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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. I can think of nothing more liberating than to dive into its dark waters.
  7. This yet again reveals PJ Harvey to be one of the UK's greatest contemporary songwriters.
  8. 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.
  9. White Chalk shifts between comforting melancholy and supremely discomforting performativity with preternatural ease.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Mojo
    80
    It's a brave and brilliant refocusing of her energies, virtually a rebirth. [Oct 2007, p.91]
  13. Constantly brilliant. White Chalk is an amazing album, racked with beauty, stricken with fragility and haunted with something otherworldly.
  14. 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.
  15. Harvey’s audio experiments are celebrated with the release of each new album. But I wonder what she would do without any limitations.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. This album will still take away the breath you aren't holding: It's at once bleak, aching, and insidiously beautiful.
  20. Q Magazine
    80
    It's so alluring you have no choice but to follow. [Oct 2007, p.98]
  21. It's stronger and more assertive than 2004's "Uh Huh Her."
  22. White Chalk, wholly self-contained and uncompromised, is a work of literary depth and complexity.
  23. Spin
    70
    There's a coiled power here equal to Harvey's more muscular stuff. [Oct 2007, p.95]
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. The Wire
    80
    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]
  29. 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."
  30. 80
    An album of lonely beauty and piercing sorrow, White Chalk is P.J. Harvey back at the peak of her considerable powers.
  31. Under The Radar
    70
    The album will puzzle some fans with its uncharacteristic sound, but it will surely intrigue many more. [Fall 2007, p.73]
  32. As usual, the excellent mix--opaque but sunlit--helps; as usual, we eagerly await her next album.
User Score
8.5

Universal acclaim- based on 88 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 35
  2. 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 »