If you haven’t been paying attention to PJ Harvey’s career of late (And to be honest, I haven’t either), it’s the right time to start.  Her latest album, Let England Shake, will be released this coming Tuesday in the States, and it’s one that’s found itself in heavy rotation round these parts.  Single, “Last Living Rose,” provides as good as an example as any as to what you can expect on the full length.  Like, “Last Living Rose,” many of the tracks are stripped down folk numbers dealing with her love/hate relationship with England.  Yet, even in these pared-back arrangements, each track has one aspect which stands out and begs of the listener to be heard.  Here, it’s Harvey’s words, which rise above ragged guitar chords and hollow drum beats.  They are as affectionate in their tone as they are gritty in their realism.  If they weren’t written by a native Englander, lines like, “Goddamn Europeans!/Take me back to beautiful England/And the grey damp filthiness of ages,” and “Let me walk through the stinking alleys/To the music of drunken beatings,” would come off barb-like, like cheap shots taken for the sake of cheap shot.  Instead, she makes those grey skies and dirty alleys sound like home.  Not an idyllic one, to be sure, but certainly one which an American Midwesterner can appreciate.

VIDEO: PJ Havey – The Last Living Rose

Let England Shake by PJ Harvery will be out February 15th on Vagrant Records in the US.