2016 – PJ Harvey – The Wheel

(The year 2020 marks my 50th birthday. Leading up to the day (22nd November), I’m planning on writing a blog entry for each year, picking a song or an album from then that I love, talking a bit about why, and giving it some context in my life)

I am a very regular person, with a regular job, living a very normal life. My life has routines and schedules, and I spend the vast majority of my time doing what I’m told and what is expected of me. So I find it hard to imagine the freedom that must come with being an artist, particularly one who seems to have spent their whole career doing whatever they want.

And so I admire people like PJ Harvey immensely. Way back in 1992 she seemed to come from nowhere, her uncompromising image all over the music papers. She was never controversial or offensive, but exuded a powerful strength. You knew that you would not want to mess with her, that she was a force to be reckoned with.

That said, I’ve not always engaged with her music, but when I do, it hits hard. My absolute favourite is 2011’s Let England Shake, a superb collection of songs. It captures a bleak sense of past, present and future, and a darkness despite the lightness of some of the instrumentation. In 2015, displaying a real “I’ll do what I want” spirit, she began to record The Hope Six Demolition Project in front of a live audience, making the construction and recording akin to performance art.

The high point is The Wheel, a wonderful, rolling piece of music, which sounds designed to be played live. Indeed, my first introduction was through her performance at Glastonbury in 2016, the album having past me by in its year of release. I was captivated by the performance, how it grooves, through its repeated refrain that I could listen to forever.

She’s far from my favourite artist, but this song is definitely by favourite for this year. And I must confess to feeling a certain envy for how she’s managed to live her life, doing what she wants, without compromise.

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