Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

As PJ Harvey’s first album in seven years, I Inside The Old Year Dying is elliptical in all the best ways

"I Inside The Old Year Dying"

Release date: 08 July 2023
PJ Harvey - I Inside The Old Year Dying cover
11 July 2023, 09:00 Written by Joe Creely

Building upon last-year's novel-in-verse Orlam, PJ Harvey spins its magical yet sinister vision of a Dorset childhood into possibly her most evasive music to date.

However, unlike her last record, 2016’s Hope Six Demolition Project, which often felt like there wasn’t as much to dig into beneath its battering surface, the new record, with its melding of the beautiful, the unsettling, and a lyrical preoccupation with Elvis, offers question on question. But it doesn’t push you away, instead I Inside The Old Year Dying offer more and more the longer you spend with it, the more you allow it to pull you into its world.

Sonically it’s Harvey’s loosest work. With her frequent collaborators John Parish and Flood she uses largely loose, softly distorted guitar playing and gentle drum patterns that carry an improvisational feel, but never meander, always maintaining their momentum. "Seen I Am" builds on these rhythms by adding rolling chords that create a momentous scale without becoming overblown, while "August" manages to feel incredibly dense with sound, whilst simultaneously incredibly brittle, as if moving through a fog of branches. These sonic landscape works perfectly. It makes the songs feel like animals that could attack, or could scuttle off into some warren at any moment, perfectly complimenting both the natural imagery as well as the delicacy of childhood that the lyrics explore.

That being said there’s still an undercurrent of darkness running through the record that keeps it from tipping into straight pastoral folk rock. Lyrically its use of Dorset dialect and folkloric allusions give it a genuine mystery, something the sonics add to as well. The washed out keys and plodding rhythm of "All Souls" conjure a remarkable, submerged atmosphere, as if the whole thing is buried beneath the earth, pushing up at the sod above it. Harvey’s voice, in her higher, White Chalk era register, adds to this a spectral effect, nowhere more so than on lead single "I Inside The Old I Dying" which finds her voice pulled in all manner of different directions, but never anything less than totally effecting.

It may be a hard record to get a finger on, particularly compared to her last decade or so of releases, but I Inside The Old Year Dying, is another strong record in a discography already stacked with classics.

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