There are some movies and albums that I can’t get too close to if I want to maintain an even keel, and White Chalk by PJ Harvey is one of those works. I realized this a couple of months ago while listening to it on my way in to work when I arrived at the job feeling introspective and not a little blue. But sometimes it’s nice to settle into a little sadness when you are already melancholy instead of wrestling with the mantle of being sociable, outwardly happy and ultimately likeable. I’m a pretty happy person, I feel very lucky and satisfied with most things in my life – but sometimes a little malaise is in order. Perhaps it’s a little like eating spicy food on a hot day, it makes you appreciate summer more fully.
In my opinion, White Chalk is the most introspective and fleeting of Harvey’s work, clocking in at just over thirty minutes. The spindly tunes make little use of her usual guitar attack, setting aside the comfort and ease of the six strings in favour of tinkling piano, banjo, autoharp and organ arrangements. The lyrical content is less angry and urgent sounding than her typical output, focused rather on loss, regret, leaning toward the more passive end of the spectrum of dark feelings.