Sonic Reducer: Pj Harvey

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The Hope Six Demolition Project is PJ Harvey’s 9th studio album and a masterful portrait of an artist who continues to have new ideas and find new ways to express them. It’s a narrative atlas of doom and undying hope, wandering from Washington, D.C. to Kosovo to Afghanistan, and it’s cuttingly political. The first track, “The Community of Hope,” is a surprisingly upbeat rock tune that paints a bleak image of the titular Project VI houses in D.C.—“They’re gonna put a Walmart here, I heard,” she chants repeatedly. “Dollar, Dollar” is underlaid with a recording of traffic and people shouting in Arabic, over which she sings of a boy with hollow cheeks asking for a dollar. The song melts into her improvised saxophone playing, swerving into minor keys and chaos when melody no longer serves the story she’s telling. Harvey has left England—this is her dismal postcard home. (Robin Babb)

Five Mile Float A Colour (DCS Records)

A Colour is the second release by Duke City Wunderkinder Five Mile Float. Though the outfit is fresh from the rigors of public school, they display talent and nuance surpassing many of the veteran rock outfits in our fair city. Beginning with an evocatively hopeful, yet yearning (thanks to a the superbly plaintive vocals of Zack Block) tune called “February 27th,” the album cascades through a variety of moods and instrumental phases, jumping from track to track quickly, in a rollicking OG style that is reminiscent of early adherents of pop-infused rock rambles from R.E.M. and the Feelies to latter-day saints of the genre like Guided by Voices and The Mountain Goats. There is a fair amount of folkish-ness on display here too, but it is handled straight on, deftly and with proper gravitas, as on the third track, “Morning Light.” A Colour establishes the band as one of Burque’s most informed ensembles. (August March)

Wire Nocturnal Koreans (pinkflag)

With their new album Nocturnal Koreans, Wire is dipping back into the well that their 1977 raucous punk album Pink Flag came from. The London-based band releases their 15th studio album on April 22, an 8-track droney rocker that shows the band is still in prime form. One imagines that if Joy Division had made it into the 2000s, listened to a bit of the Sub Pop catalog, and padded out their songs with more layered guitars, they might have made a record something like this. The most distinctive difference between their earlier punk recordings and NK is that singer Colin Newman’s vocals are now layered with reverb and buried in the mix—something that ultimately diminishes the punchiness of the songs. Nevertheless, tracks like “Numbered” with its big, bitcrushed drums and old school flanging guitar prove that Wire is fully capable of doing new things with an old sound. (Robin Babb)

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