PJ HARVEY, RÓISÍN MURPHY, JESSIE WARE, AMY WINEHOUSE + THE FORTHCOMING SUMMER PLAYLIST
"All that matters is my voice and my story": these are some of the words of Polly Harvey on the inner sleeve of Uh Huh Her. The original 2004 album and its accompanying demos are the latest focus in the PJ Harvey reissue and demo series out this week. The follow-up to Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, Uh Huh Her was mainly recorded by Polly herself and earned nominations for both Grammy and Brit Awards. For reasons I don't recall, I missed it when it first came out but it has since become one of the ones I like best in this catalogue (a catalogue which is so hard to choose favourites from). The original singles were 'Shame', 'The Letter' and my personal favourite 'You Come Through', but as with every album in the series, all thirteen tracks are a brilliant body of work. The aforementioned inner sleeve on this one features a montage of self-portraits of Polly throughout the years, along with snippets of handwritten notes, such as "if struggling with a song, drop out the thing you like most", "too normal? too PJH?", "do a version not swearing?", (she didn't) and "keep all noises, crushes, hiss & bangs on demos", which brings us nicely on to the demo album itself...
For each of the demo releases so far in this series, I always think 'that's my favourite cover' each time a new one is released, but I think the Uh Huh Her - Demos cover really is my absolute favourite. I love the evolution of Polly's relationship with photographer Maria Mochnacz as told across these covers, from the art school style of Dry - Demos to the laid-back-lipstick-on-the-mirror glamour here. And it almost goes without saying at this stage that the demo recordings continue to give a fascinating glimpse into the recording process, particularly how much connection remains between the demos and the finished album.
For those following the series, the vinyl reissue of 2006's The Peel Sessions 1991-2004 is up next, at the end of May, and White Chalk and White Chalk - Demos were just announced this week for release at the end of June, with the demo of 'When Under Ether' released as a single.
Róisín Murphy's Róisín Machine was originally released in October last year. Fifty-four minutes of dazzling disco pop, it received much critical acclaim, and was her highest charting album in the UK and Ireland to date. It is re-released in remixed form digitally this week as Crooked Machine, with the double vinyl version to follow as a Record Store Day exclusive. Harder/heavier than its predecessor, I have thoroughly enjoyed some power walking on the streets of south-east London with this in my ears over the last few days. No doubt exactly the type of end use Róisín and Crooked Man hoped for when they created it.
If you haven't already heard Róisín on Sophie Ellis-Bextor's Spinning Plates podcast from last year, it's well worth a listen. And while we are talking about podcasts, Tracey Thorn on The Shift podcast is also a recommended listen about being a woman in the music industry.
Another excellent album from last year that is being re-released this year is Jessie Ware's What's Your Pleasure?. Announced this week, the 'Platinum Pleasure Edition' comes out on 11th June with five extra tracks, and the lead single from the unreleased bonus material, 'Please', is just wonderful. I wasted no time in pre-ordering the double vinyl with a signed print. Love a signed print (even though I just keep them safe and haven't actually got any on my wall. Collectors, eh?).
Amy Winehouse At The BBC comes out next Friday, and there are another three tracks from the collection available digitally this week, this time from her 2007 performance at London's Porchester Hall. The single 'Back To Black' was released this week in 2007, so that's the track I have added to the Reissues By Women 2021 Spotify Playlist (alongside others from this week's releases).
I deliberately don't feature men in this blog, but just a little mention for Will Young this week who has announced a new covers album of songs that are all originally by women, because this is not the type of covers album you see every day. Crying On The Bathroom Floor (excellent name) is out on 6th August and includes Will's versions of songs by Bat For Lashes, Robyn, Everything But The Girl, Lykke Li and London Grammar.
The Irish collective Why Not Her released their latest research report this week - a look at the gender disparity in the Irish singles charts across twenty years. For anyone who has any awareness about gender in the music industry, the results won't come as a surprise. It's a pretty depressing read, but it's a very well executed report which got good coverage in the UK and Irish media. Hopefully it will make people think, and start to bring about change.
I practically live on Discogs for my day job, so I was delighted to happen upon an article on their blog this week about women and record shops which is a really good read.
It's a bank holiday weekend in the UK this weekend (yay!) and despite the changeable weather, summer is starting to feel imminent. So I thought it might be time for a new playlist - summer-themed songs by women, to launch on 1st June for the first day of summer in the UK meteorological calendar. Get thinking about contributions and send them in before the end of May. Think summer, sun, heat, beach, sea, sand, swimming, holiday, anything that would universally suggest the summer months (but not a song that just reminds you of your personal holidays, please!). Email to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM via Instagram or Twitter, and thanks so much to those who have already sent ideas. It's coming along very nicely!