Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

10. PJ HarveyIs This Desire?

Is This Desire? exemplifies for me some of the things I admire the most about music and the artists who make it. PJ Harvey fearlessly pushes the boundaries of what she had, up until this point, been known for. Where before she’d garnered acclaim for her kind of tough guitar-driven rock she now set that aside and completely opened up to an entirely different palette of sounds and moods. Of course I’m a huge fan of To Bring You My Love but somehow Is This Desire? remains just as powerful, yet feels so completely gut-wrenchingly sensitive. I had already admired the incredible production of her work with Flood on To Bring You My Love – particularly the bass sounds, but Is This Desire? kind of kicked this into overdrive. I distinctly remember turning to someone when listening to the track ‘My Beautiful Leah’ and asking, "How on earth do I make that sound?". It’s really the first time I can remember as a musician wanting to try and exactly emulate a sound I heard on a record. Interestingly, to this day I don’t think I’ve ever been able to achieve that sound. It might actually require calling up Mick Harvey, John Parish or some of the other great players on this album and begging them for the real scoop. 

Beyond mere bass sounds the album makes use of drum machines, strings and keys in such a kind of limitless investigation of possibilities. It really feels like someone exploring their sonic potential by utilising the courage of experimentation. I’ve remained a staunch supporter of PJ Harvey and though I won’t say with certainty that the other of her albums have affected me as much as Is This Desire?, I still completely and utterly appreciate her willingness to experiment and reinvent the way she approaches music and record making. A great example of this is the way she went about making her most recent album Let England Shake where she began writing lyrics before creating the music – much of which was developed with the autoharp. A very fascinating challenge that afforded a completely new way of working. That kind of thing I find really inspiring.   

PreviousNext Record

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today