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PJ Harvey – I Inside the Old Year Dying Review

Staggered and loose a title PJ Harvey may present, I Inside the Old Year Dying, has such a specific conductivity to it. Notions of slipping away before your time, and in doing so leaving behind a lacklustre and immediate past. Think about the year so far and what it means to an individual. For some, it may be nothing. Harvey hopes not and instils a passionate, powerful representation of her time in the foggy intrigues of the album cycle. The old year is dying, and it will again. There is a cyclical horror to Harvey, who has managed to break her own with scattershot releases, waves of time between new works.  

Whining waves of instrumental chemistry found a spiritual and naturalistic feel to track opener Prayer at the Gate. Capturing the intensity of Harvey on this track in words is a tricky task. She shifts her vocals from range to range, beating away at this shaken style, the intrigue and mystery of her lyrics formed nicely with those heavier flirtations with electric guitar. Flickers of Rid of Me, but with a lushness which washes over and punches out with a creative curve of real and astonishing complexity. Those existential crises flow through Autumn Term, the pitched interjections of satisfying and persuasive reflection on school days and wandering through the corridor of memories. Harvey uses these experiences not to dredge up old thoughts or feelings but as a conduit for the future. A reminder of her long-running career and her intensity as a performer.  

Heavily tied to religious flurries and the peaceful acceptance of love to a higher deity, I Inside the Old Year Dying fuses its spiritual nature with tender acoustic beauties. This interpretation of intentional disconnect, the titles, and the flow of Harvey and her lyrical placements, is wonderful. Nothing short of fascinating, as the steady grooves of bass-led Seem an I prove. Harvey has always held a cryptic urgency deep within her work, and it floats to the surface here. Love it tender, as A Child’s Love, August notes. As strong as it is now as it was when it led the charge for the album, released as a single and pushing the envelope of what Harvey can achieve.  

I Inside the Old Year Dying is a monumental shift for Harvey, who continues to explore not just what she can do, but where her presence as a lyricist and a folk-like vision can bring her. Far away from the heavier past, but still holding firm with the burdensome desires and hopeful thrills. A Child’s Question, July, provides an intimate ballast when drawn up against A Child’s Love, August, and flickers of theme and continuity are present, to be chased down as best they can. Music to listen to in the dark when a storm starts making its way up the coast. Enchanting in all the right spots, versatile as expected and refreshingly honest in its sparks of hollowed-out rage and wonder. It all comes together with a deeper connection, to something larger than possible to perceive. Feeling that sway is a stunning experience.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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