Thursday, February 2, 2012

Song #109 of 9999 - This Mess We're In by P. J. Harvey (featuring Thom Yorke)

Song #109 of 9999

Title: This Mess We're In
Artist: P. J. Harvey (featuring Thom Yorke)
Year: 2000
Album: Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea

Tonight, I thought tonight I would talk about my process for writing this blog, specifically the one-year-per-week-for-52 weeks approach I began January 1. On Sunday, I sit down with Wikipedia and take a look at all (a relative term, obviously) the records that were released in the year I'm about to undertake. I make a list of the obvious records of interest (2000's Kid A, for example) and try to narrow down a song selection for each of those records. Then I look at all the significant singles released that year and add them to the list. When I'm done, I usually have about fifteen songs to examine or at least a band name to investigate later. It takes few hours because I'm usually listening to songs along the way and sometimes I get taken down unexpected paths.

One of the most exciting things that happens during this process is that I discover records or songs I didn't even know existed. Sometimes it will be someone I've heard of and just missed (like the Cale/Eno collab from a week ago) or it can be someone entirely new to me who catches my eye or ear (such as Dalida a month ago). It makes the process longer but so much more gratifying.

Tonight's song, a collaboration between P. J. Harvey and Thom Yorke, is one such discovery. I will admit that P. J. Harvey is not really on my radar—I'm really just not that cool—and I was so excited to find this song. "This Mess We're In" is not the type of song you would expect to hear from the Radiohead front man and that's what's so fascinating about it. Whereas Yorke tends to treat his voice like one of the instruments in Radiohead, here it is front and center and you suddenly are reminded this guy has an insanely beautiful voice. The accompaniment, with it's drone-like guitar and piano layers is pure Harvey, chugging along like an urban heartbeat. Harvey's vocal track, especially the spoken word and the single unison line she sings with Yorke in the final verse, is one of the sexiest things I have heard on a record in a long time. A simply breathtaking duet.

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