On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!
PJ Harvey – Written on the Forehead (2011)
Let England Shake is the eighth studio album by English singer-songwriter and musician PJ Harvey, released on 14 February 2011 by Island Records. Production began around the time of White Chalk ‘s release in 2007, though it is a departure from the piano-driven introspection of that album.
We’re leaving the US behind today, dear reader, and making our way to the UK and to Dorset in England. PJ Harvey first appeared on our list way back in 1993, if you can believe, but here she is again 18 years on. Joining the talented singer in 2011 she has released her eighth album, Let England Shake, and from there 1001 Songs have gone with the track – Written on the Forehead.
Harvey’s album drew inspiration from a range of poets, musicians and films, while also exploring conflicts such as wars in the Middle East. This track in particular was confirmed by the singer to concern modern day Iraq, which saw the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, but the country remains turbulent and dangerous to this day. Harvey’s song evokes images of bloodshed and burning, devastation is all around and innocent civilians are caught in the crossfire. Are they to be uprooted or do they remain and risk their lives to remain in the place that they call home. There is no positive resolution to the track. The lyrics sound like a lament, a sad reflection of the costly impact of war and the lives it ruins or takes away completely.
It was most welcome to have PJ Harvey back nearly 20 years on. Despite two decades having passed she still sounded at the top of her game with this powerful testament of war. Let England Shake was a project that lasted more than two years for the artist but it was met with critical acclaim upon release. Harvey continues to perform to this day and now in her fifties is still wowing audiences worldwide.
Favourite songs so far: