If in 2016, PJ Harvey and her immense body of work have somehow passed by your ears undetected, that’s okay. Unlike most modern indie-folk legends, Harvey does not rewrite the same niche record over and over to appease her audience, but rather she continuously puts out fresh, challenging material that has its own appeal and sound. So, with each album, Harvey presents a new audience of listeners with her haunting delivery and unique deposition. Although the tone might be far from the emotional breadth of her mainstream debut “To Bring You My Love”, PJ Harvey makes no exceptions to her standard of artistry with her new song “The Community of Hope”. This is the second single off Harvey’s upcoming ninth (!) studio album The Hope Demolition Project. Nothing about “Community of Hope” plays like an artist twenty years into her career, as its punk- level succinctness and fierce lyrics hit with such urgency, one might think it was an artist’s debut. The way in which all the layers on “The Community of Hope” play off each other, from the post-grunge distortion on Harvey’s guitar to the bouncy piano track and pocket drum beat, showcases Harvey’s biting, deliberate style just as well as her socially-conscious lyrics.
Specifically grappling with the gentrification of Washington D.C., an urban center no doubt loved by Harvey herself, the phrase “Community of Hope” almost seems a sarcastic description during its repeated chorus, as Harvey spends the verses of this track describing all the places she knows in D.C. actually being stripped of their hopeful qualities. With “the one sit-down restaurant” being located next to a “well-known pathway of death” and the school looking “like a shit-hole”, its safe to say by time the chorus rolls around that Harvey is unnerved by the societal forces which have changed her vision of the city, an anger that bleeds through to the track’s powerful closing bridge. With the refrain “they’re gonna put a Walmart here”, Harvey’s intense vocal delivery invokes the listener to recall all the different locations previously listed, and decide for themselves what would be better- decaying infrastructure or a commercial supercenter? Admittedly, it’s a lot for an under-three minute pop song, but still nothing about “The Community of Hope” feels inaccessible or forced; rather its lyrical intricacies contrast with its structural straightforwardness to invite repeated spins. For while PJ Harvey might be the snob next door’s favorite, she’s also an artist of such profundity and quality, “The Community of Hope” should be the first stepping stone for many to go deeper into both her discography, and the real-life issues she brings to the forefront.
– Andre I.