Over 13 years and eight releases, Polly Jean Harvey has moved far beyond the head of the class she's fronted since Kurt went boom and Courtney went crazy. Having distinguished herself as an artist of rare talent and ambition the minute she took herself public, Harvey's navigated a career of steadfast vision and amazing productivity, with the vast majority of her output (give or take the demos and the Jon Parish collaboration) mining territories and reaching heights no other major-label artist comes near.
Which brings us to Uh Huh Her: Harvey's latest full-length, released earlier this year, was followed this month by the B-Sides EP, which gathers songs from the backs of her European singles and will be loved by all who pledge allegiance to Uh Huh Her. With its itchy guitar and lo-fi experiments, UHH initially invites comparison to Harvey's earlier works, but the lyrics are something new. Building upon the narrative experiments of 1998's Is This Desire? and the openhearted ambition of 2000's Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, Uh Huh Her contains Harvey's sharpest, most humane writing yet. And it's so good to have her working shit out on guitar again.
For those of you lucky enough to have tickets to Harvey's show (which is currently sold out): Brace yourselves. Every time I've seen her, she's kicked my ass in a new way, from the awe-inspiring To Bring You My Love cabaret (still the best live show I've ever seen) to the near-studiousness of the Is This Desire? showcase. A PJ Harvey performance is always an intimate couple hours in the presence of genius.