Is This Desire?

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Is This Desire?
Two sepia images of a woman beside a river. Black text in block capitals above the images read "PJ Harvey" and handwritten text in block capitals underneath the images reads "Is This Desire?".
Studio album by PJ Harvey
Released 28 September 1998 (1998-09-28)
Recorded April 1997 (1997-04)–1998 (1998) at Small World Studios in Yeovil and Whitfield Street Studios in London, United Kingdom
Genre Alternative rock, electronica
Length 40:24
Label Island
Producer Flood, Marius De Vries, Head, PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey chronology
To Bring You My Love
(1995)
Is This Desire?
(1998)
Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
(2000)
Singles from Is This Desire?
  1. "A Perfect Day Elise"
    Released: 14 September 1998 (1998-09-14)
  2. "The Wind"
    Released: 11 January 1999 (1999-01-11)

Is This Desire? is the fourth studio album by the English alternative rock musician PJ Harvey, released on 28 September 1998 on Island Records.

Background[edit]

Recorded on and off in Dorset and London between April 1997 and April 1998, it was co-produced by Flood, Head and Harvey herself, and featured instrumental contributions from Rob Ellis, John Parish, Mick Harvey, Eric Drew Feldman, Joe Gore and Jeremy Hogg. It marked a move away from Harvey’s earlier guitar-driven rock style into subtler, quieter, atmospheric soundscapes and mood pieces based around keyboards, bass and electronics.

Is This Desire? is the album that PJ Harvey claims to feel proudest of out of all her music to date. She spoke about the making of it to Filter magazine in 2004: "Again working with Flood, again trying to find new ground, but a particularly difficult time in my life. So, it was a very, very difficult, difficult record to make and still one I find very difficult to listen to, but probably my favorite record that I've made because it had a lot of guts. I mean, I was making extremely difficult music, experimenting with techniques I hadn't used before and not really caring what other people thought about it. I'm quite proud of that one." She also told the The Telegraph, "I do think Is This Desire? is the best record I ever made—maybe ever will make—and I feel that that was probably the highlight of my career. I gave 100 per cent of myself to that record. Maybe that was detrimental to my health at the same time."

It is the first PJ Harvey album to feature its lyrics printed on the inner sleeve.

The song "The Wind" was inspired by Saint Catherine, and in particular St Catherine's Chapel, Abbotsbury.[1][2] The lyrics discuss the chapel's location on top of a hill, and end with an inversion of a traditional prayer which women used at the chapel to pray for a husband.[1][3] The village of Abbotsbury is near PJ Harvey's home.[4]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars [5]
Robert Christgau A- [6]
Entertainment Weekly A [7]
Los Angeles Times 4/4 stars [8]
The New York Times (positive) [9]
NME (6/10) [10]
Q 4/5 stars [11]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars [12]
Spin (8/10) [13]

The album met with positive reception from critics, though some of whom and fans were disappointed by Harvey’s experimental and less bombastic new style. Reviews were generally positive, however. Q magazine praised the record as "disturbing and excellent", CMJ called it "another milestone in her already illustrious career", and Entertainment Weekly said it "seethes with hypnotic power";[7] the magazine Dazed & Confused claimed "Is This Desire? will be a classic of the next 10 if not 20 years. It has the impeccable timing of jazz, the arrangement of a classic dance track, the depth of an orchestral symphony and the emotional charge of gospel." It received a Grammy Award nomination as Best Alternative Music Performance of 1998. Although it did not sell as well as her 1995 commercial breakthrough To Bring You My Love, it did spawn her biggest UK hit with the single "A Perfect Day Elise"; a second single, "The Wind", also dented the UK Top 30.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by PJ Harvey

No. Title Length
1. "Angelene"   3:34
2. "The Sky Lit Up"   1:52
3. "The Wind"   4:01
4. "My Beautiful Leah"   1:59
5. "A Perfect Day Elise"   3:06
6. "Catherine"   4:05
7. "Electric Light"   3:04
8. "The Garden"   4:12
9. "Joy"   3:40
10. "The River"   4:52
11. "No Girl So Sweet"   2:45
12. "Is This Desire?"   3:25
Total length:
40:24

Personnel[edit]

All personnel credits adapted from the album's liner notes.[14]

Chart positions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Legend of St Catherine". Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  2. ^ "god_stcat". Archived from the original on 2009-08-09. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  3. ^ "St Catherine's Chapel, Abbotsbury". britainexpress.com. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  4. ^ Harris, John (27 September 2007). "Songs of innocence and experience". The Guardian. Film & Music p. 10. Retrieved 19 March 2009.  Posted on 28 September 2007.
  5. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Is This Desire? at AllMusic. Retrieved 28 June 2004.
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert (December 15, 1998). "Consumer Guide: PJ Harvey: Is This Desire?". The Village Voice. Retrieved 15 November 2011.  Also posted in a slightly modified version at "PJ Harvey: Is This Desire? > Consumer Guide Album". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 28 June 2004. 
  7. ^ a b Weingarten, Marc (October 2, 1998). "This Week: Music: PJ Harvey Is This Desire?". In Diehl, Matt. Entertainment Weekly (452). p. 74. Retrieved 21 February 2009. 
  8. ^ Boehm, Mike (September 27, 1998). "Four-Star Performers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  9. ^ Christgau, Robert (September 27, 1998). "Back With a Bang After Three Quiet Years". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 November 2011.  Also posted at "Back With a Bang After Three Quiet Years". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  10. ^ Oldham, James (August 22, 1998). "Album Reviews - Is This Desire?". NME. Retrieved 28 June 2004. 
  11. ^ CD reviews on CD Universe
  12. ^ Sheffield, Rob (October 15, 1998). "Is This Desire?". Rolling Stone (797). Archived from the original on 12 November 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2004.  Posted on September 17, 1998.
  13. ^ Vowell, Sarah (November 1998). "Reviews: PJ Harvey Is This Desire?". Spin 14 (11): 138. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  14. ^ Is This Desire? (CD). PJ Harvey. Island Records. 1998. LC 0407. 
  15. ^ "PJ Harvey – Is This Desire?". australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  16. ^ a b "PJ Harvey – Is This Desire?". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  17. ^ "RPM Top 100 CDs – November 16, 1998" (PDF). RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  18. ^ "PJ Harvey – Is This Desire?". dutchcharts.nl. Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  19. ^ a b "Discographie PJ Harvey". lescharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "PJ Harvey – Is This Desire?". norwegiancharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  21. ^ "PJ Harvey – Is This Desire?". swedishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  22. ^ a b "PJ Harvey | Artist". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  23. ^ a b Is This Desire? – PJ Harvey: Awards at AllMusic. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  24. ^ "RPM Alternative 30 – November 2, 1998" (PDF). RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  25. ^ "Les Certifications (Albums) du SNEP (Bilan par Artiste)" (in French). infodisc.fr. Retrieved 2 August 2012.  N.B. User must select "HARVEY P.J." from the drop-down list.