- On 2011's Mercury Prize-winning Let England Shake, PJ Harvey connected World War I bloodbaths with the 21st century world in harrowing, moving ways. Its follow-up, The Hope Six Demolition Project, feels like a companion piece with a wider focus and more urgent mood. For this project -- which also includes the 2015 book of poetry The Hollow of the Hand and a film -- Harvey and her Shake collaborator, war photographer Seamus Murphy, emphasized documentation: The pair spent years researching in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington, D.C.; later, Harvey was literally transparent about the recording process, making Hope Six at a recording studio behind one-way glass for public audiences at London's Somerset House. Befitting its origins, the album's sound is blunt and raw, mixing rock, blues, jazz, spirituals, and field recordings into the musical equivalent of photojournalism. Indeed, The Hope Six Demolition Project often resembles a collection of dispatches. "Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln"'s title is as detached as a photograph's cutline, while "The Ministry of Defence" offers a slide show of images from Afghanistan spanning "fizzy drink cans, magazines," jawbones, and syringes. However, the best moments echo Let England Shake's emotional impact and immediacy, which made listeners feel like they were in the trenches. Harvey delivers more feeling than reporting when she juxtaposes fading photographs of missing children with relentless brass and beats on "The Wheel" or lets her lyrics pile on top of each other with funereal inevitability on the weary "Chain of Keys." Several of the most nuanced songs comment on the limitations and complications of reporting and correcting injustices: Though it doesn't address all the aspects of the effects of gentrification on Washington, DC's 7th ward -- a tall order for a two-and-a-half minute rock song -- the ironic distance between "The Community of Hope"'s rousing sound and its depiction of "shit-hole" schools convey some of the situation's complexity. An aid worker's troubling uncertainty on "A Line in the Sand" ("We got things wrong/But I believe we did some good") makes it one of The Hope Six Demolition Project's most haunting moments, along with "Dollar Dollar," a ghostly expression of Harvey's anguish when her car pulls away before she can give money to a starving child. ~ Heather Phares
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "What emerges is one of her most challenging albums, and one of her most urgent..."
Spin - "[O]pening melodic and textural doors unlike much else you'll hear in 2016, and it amounts to a lean, compulsively listenable 41 minutes that makes a conscientious effort to do something larger with her gifts..."
NME (Magazine) - "It seems significant that the album ends with `Dollar, Dollar', the song that most suggests Harvey's own discomfort with her role and perhaps a feeling of western complicity....The song has a dreamy, tragic air, tentative and unsure, Harvey sounding haunted as she sings..."
Pitchfork (Website) - "At HOPE SIX's most thrilling points, Harvey delves back into the influence of her parents' record collection to channel the swagger of Captain Beefheart, John Lee Hooker, and Howlin' Wolf."
Clash (magazine) - "[T]his is a musically rich collection that is partly a logical step on from the rattle of 2011's beautiful LET ENGLAND SHAKE and also as melodic a rock record as Harvey has released in some time."