Reviews

PJ Harvey “I Inside the Old Year Dying” Album Review

I Inside the Old Year Dying

PJ Harvey

  • Genre: Alternative
  • Date: 07 Jul, 2023
  • Content: Not-explicit
  • Track(s): 12
  • ℗ 2023 Partisan Records

PJ Harvey, a pioneer of rock and grunge, continually modifies her sound and composition with each album. The British singer-songwriter’s 10th album overall and first in seven years, “I Inside the Old Year Dying,” is yet another demonstration of her talent as an artist and performer. and of her courage in forging forth into uncharted territory. Harvey pauses and considers her own development.

This album is quite intimate right away; it is a love letter that the double Mercury Music Prize winner penned to herself in order to reignite her creativity during a dry spell in her life. The record was created by Flood and John Parish, and Parish, along with Cecil and Ben Whishaw, also performed alongside Harvey. It takes the reader on a vivid voyage inside her head and creative process.

Album Cover Art

Pj Harvey &Quot;I Inside The Old Year Dying&Quot; Album Review, Yours Truly, Reviews, April 19, 2024

A withered, crooked tree branch is used as the cover of PJ’s new album, painting a better picture of the album title and generally how the artist feels on the inside.

Tracks and Features

The album’s first minute establishes the mood for the rest of it. It is understated, sensuous, and immediately captivating. Immediately grabbing your attention are Harvey’s voice. The song “Prayer at the Gate” creates an ethereal, magical atmosphere. The fact that Harvey distorted her voice to make her sound much older helped the song’s sense of desperation.

Slow, heavy-sounding “Autumn Term” with strained vocals added on top. The song’s main theme is going back to school after enjoying freedom throughout the summer. Ira-Abel Rawles, the album’s main character, sings, “I ascend three steps to hell/The school bus heaves up the hill,” drawing inspiration from PJ Harvey’s early years but telling the story through his perspective.

The following track, “Lwonesome Tonight,” makes Harvey’s voice quite clear to hear. Instead of listening to it, you take it in as though by some sort of aural osmosis. It is unadulterated yet eerie, sentimental but cool. It is lovely. Musically, it seemed like it could have been taken directly from the score of a dark fantasy or medieval film.

“Conzum-ed with twanketen that’s only relieved by scratching/Whisp-words as slim as thistles or a sickly chicken’s whistles,” Harvey sings in “Seem an I.” Not only is it a remarkable, if not unnerving, line, but it also displays her use of her native Dorset dialect throughout the record. “Twanketen,” for example, means “melancholy.” Unless you are fluent in the Dorset dialect, the words might as well be from a mystical language or from a bygone era in history.

Harvey combines Dorset accent with Shakespeare and Joan of Arc motifs in “The Nether-edge.” This is set to an interesting, almost futuristic music. Once again, we are given with a strange collection of words: “Gapmouth spins a rattle song/Air’s an upturned ocean.” A gapmouth is a nightjar, but it is a considerably more fascinating word to use. Harvey utilizes these phrases sparingly, making them fascinating.

The title tune is a more upbeat affair that goes more towards what we would expect from Harvey. Her voice sounds like a cross between Ani DiFranco and Siouxsie Sioux. Gentle piano notes arrive briefly, softly punctuating a strong percussion pulse and repeating guitar strum.

“All Souls” makes another reference to Wyman-Elvis. The music and the stories contained inside are culled from Harvey’s poetry collection, Orlam, which was released last year. Wyman (fighter) Elvis is the ghost of a Civil War soldier who falls in love with Ira-Abel Rawles. He’s part Elvis, part Christ figure – an intriguing mix. It surely smashes the heart into submission as a song about love and sorrow.

“August” deals with the idea that all living things must perish. You can’t avoid the inevitable. This album’s main story is one of death, birth, rebirth, love, and loss. One of the most powerful aspects of a spooky and dark folk song is its ability to provoke emotion and the unpleasant sensations it might elicit. With “A Child’s Question, July,” Harvey provides this in spades. It begins as a beautiful folky trip but quickly turns nasty.

Tracklist

NO TITLE ARTIST TIME
1 Prayer at the Gate PJ Harvey 4:14
2 Autumn Term PJ Harvey 3:20
3 Lwonesome Tonight PJ Harvey 3:48
4 Seem an I PJ Harvey 3:06
5 The Nether-edge PJ Harvey 3:17
6 I Inside the Old Year Dying PJ Harvey 1:52
7 All Souls PJ Harvey 4:21
8 A Child’s Question, August PJ Harvey 2:46
9 I Inside the Old I Dying PJ Harvey 3:08
10 August PJ Harvey 2:41
11 A Child’s Question, July PJ Harvey 3:02
12 A Noiseless Noise PJ Harvey 3:57

Album Theme

After taking poetry lessons from 59-year-old Scottish poet Don Paterson, Harvey finds herself drawn to her roots on the abandoned iron age hill fort in the album, despite her perpetual aversion to sentimentality.

Production Credits

Producers on the project include Flood, John Parish & PJ Harvey.

Stream

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