Thursday, December 22, 2011


Tired of listening to that lisping Peanuts kid proselytize or watching a sweeter than sugar little girl crow about angels getting their wings? Then fill your cynical stocking with these five films; Christmas movies that aren't really Christmas movies for the unreformed Grinch in all of us.

Go (1999)

 Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr are closeted boyfriends, Sarah Polley is an amateur ecstasy dealer and a pre-Suri Katie Holmes is just some chick sitting in an apartment; all set against the backdrop of the holiday season. Directed by Doug Liman and written by John August, Go is comprised of three interconnected story lines and is definitely an underrated gem of the '90s. Watching Nathan Bexton trip out or Wolf and Mohr discuss the head they received should make anyone feel all warm and happy inside. Look for bridesmaid Melissa McCarthy as a ditsy roommate. Polley said she only took the role of Ronna because she adored the cutting dialogue in the opening scene (watch below.)

Go part 1

P2 (2007)

 If horror is what you're seeking this holiday, look no further than this fright fest from the trio that brought us the The Hills Have Eyes remake. Set in a parking garage on Xmas Eve, P2 stars Criminal Minds' Rachel Nichols as a business woman being pursued by an obsessive psychopath (Wes Bently, who builds on the creepy vibe he first embodied in American Beauty.) P2 was met with generally negative reviews, however it filled Roger Ebert with enough yuletide cheer to recommend it, writing: "Although the plot may seem like a formulaic slasher film, P2 is in fact a very well made, atmospheric thriller with gritty yet realistic characters." As an extra present under the tree, P2 features the most sinister use of Elvis' Blue Christmas ever (watch a live version below.)

Elvis Presley
Blue Christmas

Gremlins (1984)

 It would be easy to confuse the Gremlins with greedy kids on Christmas morning. Both start out cute then morph into monsters, yet while kids want to shred wrapping paper off gifts, the Gremlins want to shred you into Christmas confetti. Gremlins is festively filled with luscious greens and reds; in the form of scales and blood. Through the mogwais and gore the darkest scene comes from Phoebe Cates' father who, acting as Santa, slips down the chimney and breaks his neck; revealing to his daughter that Mr. Claus is a fabrication. Watch the cheesy, oh-so-obviously '80s trailer below.

Gremlins trailer

Less Than Zero (1987)

 Adapted from the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero is another '80s entry that is all about cheating, cocaine and Christmas cookies. Andrew McCarthy is Clay Easton, a privileged guy who returns to Beverly Hills for the holidays, only to learn that his girlfriend has moved on and his best friend is fading fast. Art imitates life as Robert Downey Jr. is perfectly cast as an addict turned rent boy who's intent on having a very "white" Christmas and James Spader plays, what else, an asshole. Look for Brad Pitt in a small role for which he was paid $38.

Less Than Zero trailer

Die Hard (1988)

 I hadn't seen the testosterone and tinsel fest that is Die Hard until a few months ago when my PVR was on the fritz and I was forced to rely on home video for entertainment. Balding bad ass Bruce Willis stars as police officer John McClane who is burdened with taking down a group of criminals when they take a corporate Christmas party hostage. Die Hard is easily the most revered entry on this Xmas movie list. Nominated for four Oscars, Die Hard is ranked at #106 on IMDb's top 250 movies poll. The Cleveland Show recently parodied Die Hard to hilarious effect (watch the trailer below.) Merry Christmas and yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.

The Cleveland Show, "Die Semi-Hard" trailer

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


 The Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video was first presented to Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf in 1984. Since then the award has gone to videos of varying quality; from Paula Abdul dancing with an animated cat to last year's winner, Lady Gaga's Bad Romance. Other notable recipients include Michael and Janet Jackson's Scream, Korn's Freak On A Leash, the David Fincher directed video for Love Is Strong by The Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash's take on Nine Inch Nails (see my post on cover songs.) This year's nominated music videos range from the surreal (Memory Tapes) to the silly (Weird Al) to the surprising (Radiohead.) Watch each vid below and judge for yourself who should take home the golden gramophone.

Yes I Know
Memory Tapes
Directed by Eric Epstein

All Is Not Lost
Directed by Itamar Kubovy, Trish Sie & Damian Kulash Jr.

Lotus Flower
Directed by Garth Jennings

First of the Year (Equinox)
Directed by Tony Truand

Perform This Way
Weird Al Yankovic
Directed by Weird Al Yankovic

Rolling In the Deep
Directed by Sam Brown

The 54th Annual Grammy Awards will be held February 12 2012 in Los Angeles and will air on CBS. Check out all the nominees here.

Monday, December 5, 2011


 If you're like me and discovered Absolutely Fabulous as a Canadian teenager, then you forced your friends to sip terrible vodka martinis while taking in the over the top antics of Patsy and Eddie on The Comedy Network.

 Ok, that was probably just me but I know I'm not the only fab fan out there. As an early stocking stuffer a short clip of the upcoming Christmas special has been released (watch below.) The clip shows Eddie (series writer Jennifer Saunders) downing hand fulls of pills doled out by her spacey assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks) and trading barbs with her long suffering mother (June Whitfield.)

 Absolutely Fabulous began as a sketch on Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French's show French & Saunders. The idea was expanded upon in 1992 with a season of six episodes. The last new episode aired in 2004 so there's an awful lot of catching up to do with Eddie, Patsy (Joanna Lumley) and Saffy (Julia Sawalha.)

 The first special airs Christmas Day on BBC, followed by another fabulous installment on January 1st. In addition a third special will air sometime around the 2012 London Olympics. Sources are hinting that a 20th anniversary season is also in the works.

 I've included the 2003 Christmas special Cold Turkey after the new clip. Enjoy sweetie darling.

2011 Christmas Special clip

Cold Turkey (2003 Christmas Special) part 1

Cold Turkey part 2

Cold Turkey part 3

Cold Turkey part 4

Saturday, November 26, 2011


 I was inspired to write this post after sitting through one song on the new reality competition show Cover Me Canada. Skillfully utilizing an instrument is truthfully a talent, but If we're being honest American Idol and similar programs are simply glorified karaoke.

 I'm not saying cover songs can't be musical marvels in their own right. Yet I don't think you'll hear many awe inspiring parallel performances from someone who stood in line for five days in an attempt to impress Steven Tyler.

 In some cases covers can eclipse the original version, as Jimi Hendrix's take on Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower did. Hendrix, who closes out this post with a different cover, interpreted Dylan's song to such amazing effect that it reached the Top 10 in 1968 and ranked at #48 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, making it perhaps the most successful replicated rendition.

 Here are fifteen of my favourite cover songs, which you probably will never hear celebrity judges critique different versions of; well maybe Lovesong or Use Somebody.

 As a side note, I really wanted to start this post with Alkaline Trio's cover of The Muppets' Movin' Right Along as Henson's puppets are currently relevant once more with the new movie and all. Sadly the YouTube video of this fuzzy, feel good song was recently removed.

About a Girl
Cibo Matto
Originally recorded by Nirvana 

Crazy in Love
Snow Patrol

The Cure

Use Somebody
Kings of Leon

Tighten Up
The Watson Twins
The Black Keys

Wide River
Sahara Hotnights
Steve Miller

Everybody Wants To Rule the World 
Patti Smith
Tears For Fears

Head On 
The Jesus & Mary Chain

Beat My Guest
Adam & The Ants

Candy Says 
Blind Melon
Velvet Underground

Knock Loud 
Neko Case
Sook Yin Lee

Kick Out The Jams
Rage Against the Machine

Crimson & Clover
Joan Jett
Tommy James & The Shondells

Johnny Cash
Nine Inch Nails

Hey Joe
Jimi Hendrix
The Leaves

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


 All Ears has been nominated in the pop culture and music categories for the 2011 Canadian Blog Awards.

Click here to vote and be sure to check out all in the blogs in each category. Thanks to all who nominated and voted already.

 Handed out since 2004, the CBAs are an annual event where Canadian bloggers and blog readers vote on blogs overall or within a category.

 The first round of voting ends December 24th.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


 With the news that both Grimm and Once Upon A Time have been picked up for full 22 episode seasons, it seems that fairy tales are now riding back into popularity on the heels of the vampire and supernatural trend. Personally, I thought Once was a poisoned apple and couldn't sit through the first episode. I have yet to take in Grimm, although I'm looking forward to giving it a chance.

 This resurgence of fairy tale popularity got me thinking about the most impressive adaptation of Alice In Wonderland I've seen, Czech director Jan Švankmajer's 1988 surreal live action and stop animation film, Něco z Alenky.

 From the 1903 silent film to Tim Burton's disappointing take to Syfy's futuristic Alice mini-series, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been reworked for the screen over a dozen times. This classic has been re-envisioned many more times if you include fare like The Matrix, the Silent Hill video game series or CBC's underrated This Is Wonderland into the mix.

 Švankmajer has said that he interpreted Carroll's work as if it were a dream; not a fairy tale as many other adapters have.

 "While a fairy tale has got an educational aspect – it works with the moral of the lifted forefinger, good overcomes evil; dreams, as an expression of our unconscious, uncompromisingly pursue the realisation of our most secret wishes without considering rational and moral inhibitions. [Dreams are] ...driven by the principle of pleasure. My Alice is a realised dream."

 The finished product may be closer to a nightmare than a dream. The creatures Alice encounters on her strange journey are not cuddly and are rather combative, making for a truly gripping and visually vital film. If only Burton's version were this authentically dark.

Below is the first part of Něco z Alenky. For more of Švankmajer's hypnagogic work see Food or Dimensions of Dialogue.

Part 1

Saturday, November 12, 2011


 I had originally started a comprehensive new music preview but many of the albums I planned on profiling didn't exactly electrify my ears. In its place, here are five recent or upcoming albums I can confidently say offer solidly stimulating sounds.

Endless Now
Male Bonding
  English band Male Bonding have been labeled as a punk rock band, although I'd say they are closer to pop punk. Endless Now is the follow up to their well received debut, last year's Nothing Hurts, and finds John Arthur Webb, Kevin Hendrick and  Robin Silas serving up carefully crafted '90s-ish rock. Unsurprisingly the album was produced by '90s mix master John Agnello, who has worked with The Kills and Sonic Youth. Male Bonding have consistently drawn comparisons to Dinosaur Jr., who Agnelo has also produced. I can definitely understand this observation, especially on tracks like What's That Scene? and Dig You Out. Male Bonding's sound may call back to a different ear but it's their energetic execution that makes Endless Now a must listen in the present day.


Channelling Your Fears

Heartbeats & Brainwaves
Electric Six
  The recently released Heartbeats and Brainwaves is Detroit sextet Electric Six's eighth studio album in eight years. Their frantic output may lead listeners to expect a decline in quality; yet when your musical style crosses so many genres it's easy to mix it up. I'd wager most of you have heard the band's most popular song Danger! High Voltage in a commercial or otherwise. Most of the tracks found on Heartbeats and Brainwaves aren't too far off from Danger! or their other mega hit Gay Bar. Yet there are some divergences, most notably the '80s-infused We Use the Same Products. Whether you're in the mood for disco-punk or shiny synths, Electric Six are here for you. LED codpiece not included.


Divine Providence
Deer Tick
 On Deer Tick's fourth album, John McCauley & company continue to deliver their signature alt-rock, country-tinged tunes. There's nothing as sweet as Friday XIII or These Old Shoes. Instead Divine Providence contains party anthems (Let's All Go to the Bar), folk ballads (Mr. Cigarette) and familiar angry rants (The Bump.) Deer Tick's music sounds as if it were recorded in a dive bar, surrounded by spilled beer and clouds of cigarette smoke. According to McCauley that's not far from the truth.
“I can’t even guesstimate how many beers we drank,” McCauley told 77 Square of the Divine Providence recording sessions. “We were definitely ourselves.”

Miss K

Tarot Classics EP
Surfer Blood
 My inclusion of Tarot Classics is a bit of a cheat as it's not a full length release. However the handful of tracks on this EP are substantial enough to warrant a listen. Only their second release, after last year's Astro Coast, Tarot Classics demonstrates Surfer Blood's continued confidence at pairing competent pop rock with punk riffs and frenzied feedback. The four tracks are a billowy pop piece (Drinking Problem), a rocky kiss off (Miranda), instrumental done right (Voyager Reprise) and a toe tapping, beach ready single (I'm Not Ready, listen below.) Looking ahead to Surfer Blood's next release, here's hoping this Florida five piece will continue to pair sunny themes with the chilly disposition they've crafted for themselves.

I'm Not Ready

Exits & All the Rest
Girl In a Coma
 Much like Male Bonding, the first single (Smart, watch the video below) off of Girl In a Coma's Exits and All the Rest is reminiscent of the '90s. However instead of Dinosaur Jr., Girl In a Coma are more aptly compared to Magnapop or The Breeders. This indie Mexican-American trio, made up of sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz along with Jenn Alva, signed with Joan Jett's Blackheart Records in 2006. If Smart is any indication, Exits and All the Rest will be softer than their previous efforts. I adored their '07 debut Both Before I'm Gone, which was more in line with the Joan Jett, hard rock aesthetic. They may have mellowed out a bit but what Girl In a Coma are presenting is still robust enough to rouse a comatose music fan out of a mainstream induced slumber.  


Wednesday, November 9, 2011


 Many regard The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes as the highlight of each season. With 22 spooky entries to date, most critics feel the more recent efforts have declined in quality; much like the show itself.

 For this year's edition they took a beautiful film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and made it about farting. Then they took a stab at Dexter which failed to hemorrhage hilarity. As a newly found fan of Dexter, there were several plot points the Simpsons' writers could have spattered all over the screen. The end result, while mildly amusing, came off as defeated as the Ice Truck killer.
 The Avatar-esque anchor story was more successful. Blending the Na'vi template with ToH staples Kang and Kodos was a masterful touch.

 It's amalgamations like this year's spin on Avatar where ToH shines (or shins.) ToH entries which pay homage to classic horror, Halloween or sci-fi tales injected with Simpsons style are usually the best. It's when they try to do something completely different or diverge from the horror genre that lands those chapters in the worst pile.
 I took a look at IGN's picks for the top 10 best ToH entries after I had compiled my own list. Not surprisingly the most recent pick on their list aired in 1998, from ToH IX.


 I almost included Homer3 on my best list, simply for it's 'ahead of its time' animation. Homer3, from 1995's ToH VI, was awarded the the grand prize at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Although it won deservedly, there are ToH entries which caused me much more heart-fright.

The Shinning
ToH V ('94) 

Dail Z for Zombies 
ToH III ('92)

Attack of the 50-foot Eyesores
ToH VI ('95)

The HΩmega Man
ToH VIII ('97)

Homega Man from Scott Livesay on Vimeo.

It's the Grand Pumpkin Millhouse 
ToH XIX ('08)


 As mentioned the ToH entries I regard as the worst are when they diverge from classic tales (Night of the Dolphin, You Gotta Know When to Golem) or the established genre (Mr. & Mrs. Simpson, There's No Business Like Moe Business.) There are countless horror-themed tales The Simpsons still haven't exhumed. Instead of a Friday the 13th-tinged entry where a bulky Bart and a mad Marge take on camp counsellors or a torture porn ride in the vein of Saw, we've recently been offered musical fare like There's No Business Like Moe Business. There's always next year, when hopefully we'll be offered more treats than tricks.

Night of the Dolphin
ToH XI ('00)

Mr. & Mrs. Simpson
ToH XVIII ('07)

You Gotta Know When to Golem
ToH XVII ('06)

How to Get Ahead in Dead-vertising
ToH XIX ('08)

There's No Business Like Moe Business
ToH XX ('09)

Sunday, October 23, 2011


 Some consumers in the UK are switching tracks as sales of vinyl albums for 2011 have surpassed last year's figures. Recent offerings by PJ Harvey, Arctic Monkeys and Bon Iver have spurred English record buyers to purchase close to 250,000 units so far in 2011. It's a far cry from 1975, when vinyl sales totaled over 91 million.

Here is the Official UK Vinyl Album Top 10 for 2011 according to The Official Charts Company.

1. ‘The King Of Limbs’ - Radiohead
2. ‘21’ - Adele
3. ‘Different Gear Still Speeding’ - Beady Eye
4. ‘Suck It And See’ - Arctic Monkeys
5. ‘Let England Shake’ - PJ Harvey
6. ‘Bon Iver’ - Bon Iver
7. ‘Submarine (Ost)’ - Alex Turner
8. ‘Director's Cut’ - Kate Bush
9. ‘Build A Rocket Boys’ - Elbow
10. ‘Nevermind’ – Nirvana

In the US, music sales increased 8.5% for the first half of 2011 when compared to the same period in 2010. This is the first uptick in US music sales since 2004. The mini-resurgence included an 11% increase in digital music sales and a 44% jump in vinyl units moved when compared to 2010. Surprisingly MP3s account for only 1 out of every 3 albums sold. CDs remain the most popular form of music purchase.

Below is my article on vinyl and Birdman Sound's John Westhaver which originally appeared on In addition a condensed version was published in 24 Hours Ottawa.

John Westhaver of Ottawa's Birdman Sound has been carving his path through the vinyl for 20 years. Contrary to popular belief, the business of selling tunes on wax has a few more revolutions to go. With the popularity of MP3s, torrents and the iPod increasing, you may think the death of the underground record store is imminent.

Think again.

According to Nielsen SoundScan, nearly one million LPs were bought in the United States in 2007. That's an increase from 858,000 in 2006. In 2008, 89% more records were sold than in 2007, with Radiohead's In Rainbows taking the top spot. Regardless of what musical medium they are seeking, audiophiles continue to flock to Birdman Sound and the increase in sales hasn't made Westhaver change his business style one bit.

"This store is an old school store," says Westhaver. "I cater to people that really did music of all kinds, mostly obscure. If you go through the bins, there are tons of well-known artists but in a more underground way." Which means John Coltrane and Miles Davis are in while crooners like Diana Krall and Harry Connick Jr. are out.

Westhaver has a particular methodology when choosing what to stock in his humble yet inviting store.
"It's an educated and semi-scientific approach," says Westhaver. "The science would be based on having done this since the 1970s, and not trying to be somebody that has ever purported to be the be-all and end-all for everybody who walks through that door. It's virtual financial suicide, not to mention insulting to most intelligent people to try and carry everything. It's impossible; there's too much music. With a store these days it's not trial and error—that's a ruination path. You have to start some way, with what you want to do, see what happens, and hopefully develop a clientele and then you have to nurture that clientele."

Yet no amount of good intentions can circumvent the fact that a record store operator will always be at the mercy of suppliers.

"If you have good connections and you have access to tons of stuff that you don't necessarily bring in, of course, once you develop relationships with your clients and you get to know them and they request a copy of something specific, you just do it. You don't go ‘Yeah, I'll do it' and not do it. It's not as simple as saying ‘Yeah, I'll get it' and have it here next week. It sometimes doesn't work that way. I've seen stuff go on back order for a year before it comes in. It has always been like that. It's a big world and there is a lot of music. After I do my bit and put the order in I have to rely on other people who are also relying on other people. The chain can be long. That's just the way it works. It depends on what the customer wants."

Westhaver has definitely amassed a loyal following. Male, female, young, old, the customers who choose Birdman do so for the selection and quality and Westhaver has achieved this following with absolutely zero advertising.

"It's pretty much by word of mouth," Westhaver explains.

He goes on to say that while the production of records has never ceased, he's aware that records will never regain their number one spot as a musical medium. "It would be preposterous to think that all of a sudden the entire music buying population is going to say that CDs suck and MP3s sound like shit, we're all buying records again and all of a sudden everyone is dusting off their record presses."

Westhaver has observed that while many baby boomers still buy records, a lot of younger people are dropping the needle.

"A lot of young people are not buying CDs. Some of those young people are buying records. Many of those kids live in houses with parents who are perhaps my age, and they grew up with their parents listening to records. And if that parent has a big record collection and that child has a good relationship with that parent, there may be some influence there."

No amount of influence can correct the portability problems the record player faces and, surprisingly, Westhaver isn't about to knock the iPod.

"The whole iPod thing—I can see why it exists and I don't really have a problem with it existing. The reason why downloading and the iPod have become so popular is because it is a convenience issue. I think all of these storage forms can co-exist together quite comfortably. There's always something, right? And there will be other things down the road that people will come up with to store your music or to get your music. It's just going to happen. I think it's still good that people are offered choices, because with many things in life there are not many choices."
Major labels have taken notice of the increase in record sales and are offering consumers these choices. Many labels are including download codes or CDs with the purchase of a record.

"I've had a lot of customers say that they don't really buy a lot of records but they would buy a certain album especially if it came with a download code."

Just as labels are offering more options to consumers, Westhaver has a varied career that goes beyond his Bank Street store. Westhaver has worked as a talent booker, promoter, as a musician in bands such as Resin Scraper and "the band whose name is a symbol," and has hosted a show on CKCU-FM Radio titled Friday Morning Cartunes for close to two decades.

"John is a world-class programmer who presents a well-researched show," says Matthew Crosier, CKCU's station manager. "He's been with us for years and he pays homage to the past as well as touching on the present."

A graduate of Algonquin College's broadcasting program, Westhaver has taken the Friday morning time slot on CKCU and transformed it into what many now regard as an institution.

"What I choose to present on that program is what my musical diet is the week leading up to it," says Westhaver. "I don't pull any punches with that. I may start the show with some of the heaviest psychedelic doom rock. I've started my show with Black Sabbath at 9:30 in the morning. People don't have a problem with that. The beauty of radio is if you don't like it you can turn it off. I have fun doing it and I know a lot of people enjoy listening to it. I do it for myself because I really like doing it and there is no self-important bullshit that is connected to it. I'm in a position to be able to elevate people's interest and knowledge in music; it's kind of like instructing or teaching. I think it's providing a valuable resource."

With so many choices surrounding music and with mediums on which to listen to music changing, skipping like a scratched record, Westhaver has always and will continue to stick by his records.

"I personally have always believed that records sound superior to CDs or digital and you do not need an expensive system to appreciate that difference. It's amazing to me how many young people not only believe that as well but also have that conviction."

Westhaver and the sales figures speak for themselves.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


  With a second Mercury Prize win for Let England Shake, PJ Harvey has once again struck a successful chord with critics and listeners. Let England Shake finds Harvey returning to the melodic magic last heard on her other Mercury Prize winning creation, Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea.
 Her two albums between Stories and England, Uh Huh Her and White Chalk, had auspicious moments but neither garnered as much recognition.
 Straddling many genres, utilizing varied instruments and performing in irregular vocal styles, Harvey has, for the most part, remained resourceful and inventive over the course of nine albums.

 Raised on a sheep farm in Dorset, England, Harvey took up saxophone as a teen and was a member of three separate bands before she reached her twenties.
 In 1988 Harvey joined the established Bristol band Automatic Dlamini. Founded by future Harvey collaborator John Parrish, Automatic Dlamini also featured Rob Ellis and Ian Oliver. After leaving that band, Harvey would team up with Ellis and Oliver; calling their group PJ Harvey.
 "Nothing felt right or either suggested the wrong type of sound," Harvey said of the decision to perform under her name.
 Oliver eventually decided to rejoin Automatic Dalmini and was replaced by Steve Vaughan. The trio played their first show in 1991, which ended in disaster.
 "We started playing and I suppose there was about fifty people there. During the first song we cleared the hall. There was only about two people left. A woman came up to us, came up to my drummer, it was only a three piece, while we were playing and shouted at him 'Don't you realize nobody likes you! We'll pay you, you can stop playing, we'll still pay you!'"
 Although their first outing was lacklustre, the trio pushed forward and released the single Dress via indie label Too Pure. Dress was voted single of the week by Melody Maker and soon after Sheela-Na-Gig was released to similar popularity. With sexually charged lyrics like "Look at these my child bearing hips/ Look at these my ruby red booby lips/ Put money in your idle hole," Sheela-Na-Gig would set the tone for PJ Harvey's debut album Dry.

DRY (1992)

Dry's sound is rooted in stripped down, post-punk riffs.  From Happy and Bleeding to Plants and Rags, Harvey's debut is on par with the typical early '90s aesthetic. The album's closer Water (below) is a stand out, implementing a loud-quiet-loud outline. Kurt Cobain included Dry on his list of the 50 greatest albums of all time and it is also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 2004, Harvey told Filter magazine that while recording Dry she thought it may have been her first and last album.
"Dry is the first chance I ever had to make a record and I thought it would be my last. So, I put everything I had into it. It was a very extreme record. It was a great joy for me to be able to make it. I never thought I'd have that opportunity, so I felt like I had to get everything on it as well as I possibly could, because it was probably my only chance. It felt very extreme for that reason."


RID OF ME (1993)

 The trio's next album would find them ditching the (mostly) coherent melodies found on Dry for electric guitar distortion and an even more in-you-face sound. The title track would once again use the loud-quiet-loud outline coupled with Harvey's weirdo baby talk vocals with startling punk efficiency.
 Written while recuperating from exhaustion brought on from touring for Dry, Rid of Me was labeled a feminist album by critics. After hearing the Pixies album Surfer Rosa, Harvey personally sought out producer Steve Albini to produce Rid of Me.
"I was really pleased with Rid of Me. For that period of my life, it was perfect," Harvey said.
Critics thought the album was perfect as well, but not just in the context of the '90s. In addition to being nominated for the Mercury Prize, they lost to Suede, Rolling Stone placed Rid of Me at #405 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list and Spin ranked the album at #9 on their list of the 100 Greatest Albums of 1985-2005.

50 Ft. Queenie


 Less daring yet more complex than her previous efforts, To Bring You My Love is considered PJ Harvey's breakthrough album. Thanks to the massive, international success of the single Down By the Water, To Bring You My Love became PJ Harvey's best selling album. 
 During the Rid of Me tour, Harvey says she and her band mates began to grow apart and eventually called it quits; making To Bring You My Love the first true PJ Harvey solo album. Written in near isolation, the album's lyrics rely heavily on biblical imagery.
 Critics across the board saw Harvey as their musical saviour of 1995. To Bring You My Love was named album of the year by People, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, USA Today and Hot Press. To Bring You My Love also earned Harvey her second Mercury Prize nomination. That year she lost to Portishead's Dummy.

Meet Ze Monsta


 Trading personal confessions for fictitious themes, Is This Desire? has been labelled Harvey's blues record by many critics. There are few electric guitar riffs on this record. Instead you'll hear keyboards and acoustic bridges in the place of caustic punk sounds. The track A Perfect Day Elise became a popular single, rivalling the success of Down By the Water.
 "I do think Is This Desire? is the best record I ever made, maybe ever will make, and I feel that that was probably the highlight of my career," Harvey told The Telegraph in 2004. "I gave 100 per cent of myself to that record. Maybe that was detrimental to my health at the same time."



My favourite PJ Harvey album, Stories is her love letter to New York City. The album opener Big Exit, is volatile and speaks of despair and suicide. Yet Stories also features downbeat, willowy tracks like Horses in My Dreams and One Line, and upbeat, hopeful entries like You Said Something, demonstrating Harvey's diversity. Some detractors said the lead single Good Fortune (below) was too much like mainstream pop for Harvey. I think the song, with its effortless hook and syllable repeating, is one of her best works.
"I want absolute beauty," Harvey told Q in 2001. "I want this album to sing and fly and be full of reverb and lush layers of melody. I want it to be my beautiful, sumptuous, lovely piece of work."
Most critics declared the album a beautiful piece of work. Harvey finally won the Mercury Prize for Stories, beating out Gorillaz and Radiohead and becoming the first female solo artist to win the award.
 I had always thought the ominous song This Mess We're In, a duet with Radiohead's Thom Yorke, sounded as if it were written about the attacks of 9/11. Yet the album was released before 2001, so obviously it is not a commentary on the tragedy. Oddly, the Mercury Prize winner was announced on 9/11. Harvey was in Washington DC and witnessed the attack on the Pentagon from her hotel room.
 Accepting the prize via phone, Harvey said "It has been a very surreal day. All I can say is thank you very much, I am absolutely stunned."

Good Fortune

UH HUH HER (2004)

 Although less popular than Stories, Uh Huh Her was generally well received by critics. The gloss of Stories is gone but Uh Huh Her is not a total throwback to the low-fi days of Rid of Me. The album opener The Life and Death of Mr. Badmouth grabs the listener with a catchy stripped down, rock hook. Much of the album is sparse but this scarcity is usually successful. The Desperate Kingdom of Love, Pocket Knife and Shame are three such examples. However some songs, like Cat on the Wall and one track that is simply over one minute of seagulls, sound meagre and appear to lack effort. Harvey played virtually all of the instruments heard on Uh Huh Her and produced the album solo.
"I was looking for distressed, debased sounds," Harvey told Tracks magazine. "So all of the guitars are either tuned so low that it's hard to detect what notes they're playing or they're baritone guitars or they're played through the shittiest amps I could find."

The Letter


 Although I wrote a review of this album in 2007, I strained to recall any of its songs while reminiscing for this post. I described it at the time as "so soft it's fucking talcum powder." White Chalk is PJ's piano album. Harvey learned the piano specifically for this album and while the music is softer, the themes remain as hard and eerie as ever.

When Under Ether

 Let England Shake could be summed up as a anti-war concept album, yet the genre of this record isn't as easy to pinpoint. With autoharp, xylophones and the organ all making appearances, England sounds like PJ Harvey but broader and more layered than her other albums.
"I was really enjoying this different, enormous, wide breadth of sound that the autoharp gives. It's quite a delicate sound, but it's also like having an entire orchestra at your fingertips," Harvey told Bridport News earlier this year. "I began by writing quite a lot on the autoharp, and then slowly as time went by, my writing started moving into experimenting with different guitars, and using different sound applications, ones that I had never really experimented with."
 Harvey once again pushes her voice to new heights, not unlike on White Chalk, but her soprano sounds better and more fitting on this album than it did on her previous effort.
 After seeing Seamus Murphy's A Darkness Visible, she contacted the filmmaker "to speak to him more about his experiences being there in Afghanistan" and their collaboration gave birth to short films as music videos for the songs of Let England Shake.
 At times the album is mordib; at other times it's symphonic. Let England Shake's complexity makes it one of Harvey's most well thought out collections.

Let England Shake

The Last Living Rose

The Words That Maketh Murder

The Glorious Land