Something is broken, very broken in Polly Harvey's life. This new album is saturated with loss, palpable, bruising loss. From the charm of the opening song "The Devil" there is no question that something terrible, perhaps even mortal, has transpired in this artist's world. She had been the flippant rock deconstructionist on her last work "Uh Huh Her" but now she is a mutely observant survivor. Barely speaking. Barely still there at all.

She sounds decimated, crushed, tormented... damaged. I want to curl up in a little ball and hear myself breathe just be sure I'm still alive when "White Chalk" has finished. People generally keep pain like this to themselves but not our little English firecracker.

"Grow Grow Grow", the third track is a demented study on human life. The piano features more strongly on this tune then it does for the rest of this "piano-driven" release. Swirling progressions meekly stand as guardians against anything getting into the meat of the song. This should have been the lead single. P J is quite possibly losing her sanity as we listen and my my my does it sound amazing. Of course, the obligatory nod towards more traditional structure "When under Ether" follows soon after and I have to give Flood his due. His production abilities and immense studio arsenal actually serve to tame and loosen this title instead of emasculating the delicate, nuanced playing Polly exhibits.

"Silence" could be in her top five, the tension is explosive. The words cauterize your soul. If it is indeed to be the end of all things, what could better represent impending doom than an ironic meditation on the word silence and all of its possible meanings.

I should stress to you that I would love for this album to be longer. It's not even forty minutes. The best way to describe this work only would make sense if you'd collected her singles from the "Is This Desire?" album. The non-album tracks pointed quite frankly in this direction and I'm stunned she chose to continue in this fashion. Such attention to detail is rare in the musical world, and for an artist such as this one - who's focus is quite easily diverted - to have wrangled even this much of such a place onto an album I cannot commend enough. Now how about a finished version of "The Northwood"?