White Chalk

  • Record Label: Island
  • Release Date: Sep 25, 2007
User Score
8.4

Universal acclaim- based on 86 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 75 out of 86
  2. Negative: 5 out of 86

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  1. Jan 27, 2014
    10
    Punk on a piano. Minimalist melody with expansive vocals that float into her highest ranges. Scratchy. Wailing. Hurt. Desperate. Patient. The cohesion of this is unparalleled. And while there is no intricate playing or swirling solos. Just clunky 3 chord melodies. It's has a surreal goth feel but is way to serious in tone to be bundled with fantasies.
  2. JohnR
    Jan 30, 2008
    9
    This is PJs inevitable mind-control over her fans. We wait with bated breath for the next album, only to believe we've been horribly wronged upon the first listen. Then, just when you're resolved to throw the album off of the roof, you find that the music has settled deep within you. White Chalk is no different.
  3. JyotirmayaDas
    Dec 20, 2007
    7
    Stark and yet very engaging. Sounds like it could have used more background music to give it a fuller sound.... but one senses that Ms. Harvey purposefully decided against that. It's a rebirth...an self-serving assessment of her own creativity. That being said Polly Jean Harvey has released a good album that I only listen to either very early while still in bed or late at night while Stark and yet very engaging. Sounds like it could have used more background music to give it a fuller sound.... but one senses that Ms. Harvey purposefully decided against that. It's a rebirth...an self-serving assessment of her own creativity. That being said Polly Jean Harvey has released a good album that I only listen to either very early while still in bed or late at night while falling asleep... Expand
  4. AlanKoslowski
    Dec 15, 2007
    6
    A marginal improvement over Uh-Huh Her because it's more cohesive. It's a successful, but undeniably modest album. The minimalist piano musical landscape works, but is so spare and unambitious it's not very compelling. The relentlessly mournful songwriting is so understated (for the most part) even at just over 30 min becomes tedious after the first few songs. Harvey is A marginal improvement over Uh-Huh Her because it's more cohesive. It's a successful, but undeniably modest album. The minimalist piano musical landscape works, but is so spare and unambitious it's not very compelling. The relentlessly mournful songwriting is so understated (for the most part) even at just over 30 min becomes tedious after the first few songs. Harvey is always at her best when she's emphatic and cogent, and at her worst when eloquent and understated. This album is clearly the latter. Even though it's only her second release in 7 years, maybe she should go on hiatus until she finds the motivation to make a truly compelling album. Expand
  5. 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 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.
  6. NiamhOH
    Nov 8, 2007
    9
    an excellent piece. she's outdone herself and surprised us all once again. niamh thewhiteponystolemyheart.blogspot.com
  7. roccocavaliere
    Nov 7, 2007
    8
    Great album...but, is she pj? Really?
  8. 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 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 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. Expand
  9. 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 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.
  10. P23
    Oct 25, 2007
    10
    Superb!
  11. DellyP
    Oct 24, 2007
    9
    I'm not gonna give it a 10 because not a lot warrants a 10 but this is a brilliant album. Had heard some PJ before and wasn't that big-a-fan but this is awesome and has since encouraged me to revisit previous endeavors much to my delight. Go, buy, enjoy!
  12. allans.
    Oct 24, 2007
    9
    Perfectly poised, relentless fragility that rings emotional depth from simply piano figures. It isn't the muscular spectorama that was "Stories from the City..." , but Peej yet again hits the spot. It's truly thrilling to hear someone creating music for reasons other than shifting units.
  13. JennieF.
    Oct 23, 2007
    9
    The more I listen to this record the more I'm convinced that it's a concept album...a story about a woman from the past seduced, impregnated, and abandoned. She dies and then comes back to haunt her seducer. I know, it sounds crazy...but the lyrics could certainly be read that way. Regardless, it's a tour de force of storytelling from a musician who constantly reinvents herself.
  14. JK
    Oct 17, 2007
    10
    It sounds like PJ's plumbed the depths, and instead of wondering what's really down there like she did in Uh Huh Her, this time she's landed and walked around and serenading the darkness she's always threatened to meet in the past.
  15. SimonG
    Oct 14, 2007
    10
    Haunting, beautiful, Polly finds a voice and style which returns her to Dorset, to her childhood. She takes her voice to a new level and pushes the boundaries. Check out the video of Grow, Grow, Grow on the divx site. I find the review by NOW amusing, clearly the reviewer is stuck in 1992 and is disappointed she's not churning out garage blues by formul.
  16. Flemming
    Oct 10, 2007
    10
    Of course this is great. what did you expect?
  17. StaciaM.
    Oct 8, 2007
    9
    PJ Harvey continues to evolve. This story makes "Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea" sound boring. With tons of piano and very high notes, this sounds like a totally different woman, and I love it just as much as the old one.
  18. JeremyF
    Oct 7, 2007
    8
    PJ Harvey is a rocker. She always has been. Soaring electric guitars and fun drumming have littered themselves liberally over her catalog. Until now. Harvey's newest departure in music is White Chalk, a sparse, ghostly, dark, intimate, and sometimes claustrophobic work of art. The album is almost entirely piano based, which, as said in interviews, is relatively new to Harvey. You PJ Harvey is a rocker. She always has been. Soaring electric guitars and fun drumming have littered themselves liberally over her catalog. Until now. Harvey's newest departure in music is White Chalk, a sparse, ghostly, dark, intimate, and sometimes claustrophobic work of art. The album is almost entirely piano based, which, as said in interviews, is relatively new to Harvey. You would never think this though, as, even though she doesn't play it fantastically, she isn't half-bad. Her voice is airy, and throughout the record, it is always in her upper register. Whether it's as high as she can possibly go ("The Devil") or a subdued, melancholic whisper ("White Chalk"), it is always nonetheless effective. The aforementioned title track is the highlight, with its ghost-story-esque tale of the hills in her childhood, sung in a whisper so deeply and intimately effective, it leaves you in awe. Another highlight is the closer, "The Mountain," after which she belts out a blood-curdling screech that seems like a release of pressure -- all the pressure and tension of the album being released after its 34 minute duration. The album falters without a doubt. "To Talk To You" has some very touching (and creepy) lyrics, but it seems like she is striving too hard to hit the notes, and barely does so. At four minutes, this number can become a bit annoying. Also, "When Under Ether," and "Broken Harp" (on which she leaves the piano for, you guessed it, a harp) are two of the best-sounding tracks here. Eerie and yet oddly comforting. ("Broken Harp"'s "Something metal tearing my stomach out" touches your spine.) But, at 2 minutes and 22 seconds, "When Under Ether" seems to brief, and at 1 minute and 59 seconds, "Broken Harp" seems even more brief. It seems that if both of them had an extra minutes - whether of instrumentation or singing - they could have been dazzling. Overall, White Chalk is definitely a spectacular album, and I give Harvey a lot of credit on experimenting. This is just that: an experiment. An experiment is without a doubt going to split her fan's likings and polarize critics (as it already has), but I welcome it with open arms, and at sundown, on a cool rainy evening, this may just be the perfect soundtrack. Expand
  19. mathewB.
    Oct 6, 2007
    10
    A must for long-time fans. Musically, very different, but thematically very consistent with her previous work.
  20. EuchridE.
    Oct 6, 2007
    10
    A beautiful haunting album, echoing the darkest songs from To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire, while adding a new complexity to the whole thing. For someone who's just recently learned to play the piano, the melodies themselves are unique and utterly simple, while covering her voice very well. In many ways and following her own carrier, this album has some similarities with A beautiful haunting album, echoing the darkest songs from To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire, while adding a new complexity to the whole thing. For someone who's just recently learned to play the piano, the melodies themselves are unique and utterly simple, while covering her voice very well. In many ways and following her own carrier, this album has some similarities with Cave's Your Funeral.... My Trial, as well as the piano driven songs of The Good Son and The Boatman's Call. The ravenous rage, that's haunted her earlier albums, have departed, the songs are naked in the dark and filled with a deep, yet strangely enjoyable melancholy rarely seen in the modern music world. Expand
  21. TimC.
    Oct 6, 2007
    9
    Stunning. More like her earlier stuff with John Parish (whose presence and obvious influence appear on the recording) though rather from the style of "Who Will Love Me Now" than "To Give You My Love". My only complaint is that the CD is too short!
  22. JesseS.
    Oct 5, 2007
    10
    Dark...depressingly uplifting. For me, her best. Subtle & brutal at the same time.
  23. Steve
    Oct 5, 2007
    9
    Having watched 2 clips online, I missed the crunching guitars and signature howl, but was more disturbed that the songs sounded very 'samey'. Having listened to the entire album, I am in love. This is true artistry; it feels like a true work, as opposed to just another album. If you want repetitive pop-fare, look elsewhere.
  24. Trevor
    Oct 4, 2007
    9
    A gorgeous album....dark,yes, and courageous...
  25. JavierR.
    Oct 4, 2007
    9
    Probably one of the bests shoots in this season. Shoot of melancholy, but great for sure.
  26. HaroldN.
    Sep 30, 2007
    10
    her ability to re-invent and create something unique is what really impress me.. great album!
  27. Joe
    Sep 28, 2007
    10
    An absolutely amazing, beautiful album - PJ's best in many years! so glad it's getting the raves it deserves, although the idiot writing for NOW magazine clearly wouldn't know quality if it bit him on the ass. Trust the majority - this is a masterpiece of a record, well worth buying. My favorite of 2007 so far.
  28. Marco
    Sep 27, 2007
    9
    white chalk is the best ethereal pj's album. the top along with "to bring you my love" in her career. buy her new record!!!
  29. NovakG.
    Sep 26, 2007
    9
    Utterly beautiful album,soaked in deeply moving sadness of ONE wounded,if not buried,Heart. I did not miss guitars at all,Polly*s piano is such a strong, but sophisticated instrument-thankfully to John Parrish and Flood*s profound production.One of the greatest albums this Year!
  30. bruce
    Sep 26, 2007
    10
    Clearly a departure from past work, White Chalk may well be Polly's finest moment to date. Haunting, unsettling, and courageous, Harvey is one of the only artists today willing to take risks for the betterment of her artistry. I can't stop listening to this album, and it has already knocked other albums off of my top ten of the year. Thanks Peej!
  31. PaulC
    Sep 26, 2007
    8
    What are they smoking at NOW Magazine?
  32. RenatoS.
    Sep 26, 2007
    9
    Great return to form, after SFTC, SFTS and UHH!
  33. FabioR.
    Sep 25, 2007
    10
    orgasmic album!
  34. Alex
    Sep 25, 2007
    10
    I was pretty shocked hearing this, because it's totally unlike anything PJ's done before, the singing, the style, the pianos (!) But i realized after a few listens how great it is. Thank god for PJ Harvey. For every Britney there's a PJ.
  35. [Anonymous]
    Sep 25, 2007
    10
    This has to rank as one of the finest albums of the year. No music or album has ever before been so haunting yet so endearing at the same time. Every song seems minimalistic, yet with further inspection, every song seems to be perfectly crafted; each pause, each moan, each beat seems perfect.
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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 80
    An album of lonely beauty and piercing sorrow, White Chalk is P.J. Harvey back at the peak of her considerable powers.