Polly Jean Harvey and her band beat out James Blake, Elbow, Katie B, Tinie Tempah, and an artist by the name of Adele to win a Mercury Prize for their work onLet England Shake (Vagrant). Here are a couple of interviews around the disc.
Pitchfork: More than in any of your other records, there’s imagery of violence that really just sticks in your gut on this one. Like the line about seeing soldiers fall like lumps of meat. What led you to write about this stuff in this way, right now?
PJH: The world that we live in is very brutal, and these things actually happen. I wanted to use language that was being honest about that.
Pitchfork: Musically, it’s not a rough album the way that something like Rid of Me was. It has this really pretty float to it that contrasts with some of the imagery.
PJH: I knew that I wanted the music to offset the weight of the words. That was very important. I wanted the music to be full of energy and to be very uplifting and unifying, almost insightful in its creation of energy. It took me a long time to find out how to sing such words because to sing it in the wrong voice would have given it the wrong feeling– maybe too self-important and dogmatic. I wanted the songs to be much more ambiguous than that. This was the way that the language was best moved from lip to ear. MORE BREIHAN/HARVEY CHAT
It’s a big stretch between Loretta Lynn and the Insane Clown Posse, but you know Jack White – he’s a guy who can ape Son House while singing a tune called “I Fought Pirhanas.” So maybe, just maybe, he can convince us that Mozart’s ode to the back door, as rapped by Thing 1 and Thing 2 below, will be fun for a few moments. Mr. White produced. “Leck Mich Im Arsch” doesn’t need much explanation, but with Sinead O’Connor reveling in the needs of the be-hind this week as well, I’m wondering about upcoming trend pieces. Oh well, your body is a wonderland said that other young blues man.
Sales figures don’t determine a song’s popularity at our house. It’s all about usefulness ’round here. Can the track provide a fun background for various parts of the day? In other words, is it versatile? There’s no question about this summer’s numero uno: LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” was the consensus choice because it worked in myriad situations. Chopping onions for backyard burgers, taking a shower before date night, bumping and grinding during date night, morning clean-up, evening dance bash – I even caught my kid vacuuming to the damn thing.
The season’s most ubiquitous track has generated several spin-offs as well. Tired of the original? How about a few remixes to mess with your head? Everyday I’m (re)shuffling…
What, you say the “Anthem” isn’t the song of the summer? Well, go ahead, tell everyone which track you chopped your backyard onions to!
“Sound is the blood between me and you,” sings Carrie Brownstein on the lead track from Wild Flag’s debut disc. As the words spill from her throat a classic rock parallel crops up. The famed indie rock queen from the Great Northwest is talking about the depth of a friendship and the elements that bind two pals. It’s not unlike Springsteen’s “we like the same music, we like the same bands, we like the same clothes,” line from “Bobby Jean.”
Brownstein and her old Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss do share lots of ideas, and they are back together again, along with Helium’s Mary Timony and The Minders’ Rebecca Cole. After just a listen or three, Wild Flag sounds and raucous and wise and playful – always playful. I like the way it can blow barbed one moment, dreamy the next. NPR is streaming it all week. It arrives via Merge next week. Go ahead, take some time to absorb.
More than a few allusions to Michael on last night’s VMAs, so let’s roll through a micro history. And never, never leave “Dancing Machine” off of your playlist.
Need a sharp cultural overview of MJ’s impact? Greg Tate summarized it well in the Village Voice a week after he passed.
“Motown saved Michael from Gary, Indiana: no small feat. Michael and his family remain among the few Negroes of note to escape from the now century-old city, which today has a Black American population of 84 percent. These numbers would mean nothing if we were talking about a small Caribbean nation, but they tend to represent a sign of the apocalypse where urban America is concerned. The Gary of 2009 is considered the 17th most dangerous city in America, which may be an improvement. The real question of the hour is, How many other Black American men born in Gary in 1958 lived to see their 24th birthday in 1982, the year Thriller broke the world open louder than a cobalt bomb and remade Black American success in Michael’s before-and-after image? Where Black modernity is concerned, Michael is the real missing link: the “bridge of sighs” between the Way We Were and What We’ve Become in what Nelson George has astutely dubbed the “Post-Soul Era”—the only race-coded “post” neologism grounded in actual history and not puffery. “