Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea is the fifth studio album by English alternative rock musician PJ Harvey, released 23 October 2000 on Island Records. Recorded during March to April 2000, it contains themes of love that are tied into Harvey's affection for New York City.
The album became the second major commercial success of her recording career, following her successful breakthrough To Bring You My Love (1995). Upon its release, the album received acclaim from most music critics and earned Harvey several accolades, including the 2001 Mercury Prize. It spent 17 weeks on the UK Albums Chart, and was certified Platinum in the UK and Australia. It has been cited by several music writers as her best work. In the updated version of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, it was ranked at #431.
Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea was recorded at the Great Linford Manor in Milton Keynes in March-April 2000. The record was co-produced by Head, Rob Ellis and Harvey, and mixed by Victor Van Vugt at the Fallout Shelter. The album featured a duet with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke on the track "This Mess We're In", as well as backing vocals and keyboards from Yorke on the songs "One Line" and "Beautiful Feeling". "This Mess We're In" was featured in the series finale of Queer as Folk, in the final love scene shared between the two main characters. The song was subsequently included on the series' fifth soundtrack.
Harvey told Q in 2001, "I wanted everything to sound as beautiful as possible. Having experimented with some dreadful sounds on Is This Desire? and To Bring You My Love - where I was really looking for dark, unsettling, nauseous-making sounds - Stories From The City... was the reaction. I thought, No, I want absolute beauty. I want this album to sing and fly and be full of reverb and lush layers of melody. I want it to be my beautiful, sumptuous, lovely piece of work." She did, however, concede jokingly that it was only "pop according to PJ Harvey, which is probably as un-pop as you can get according to most people's standards."
Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea reached number 23 on the UK Albums Chart. The album was certified Platinum in the UK, with sales over 300,000 copies. The album debuted at number 42 on the US Billboard 200 chart. It has also been certified Gold in France, and has sold 1 million copies worldwide.
The album received acclaim from music critics.Robert Christgau praised it as "the best album of her career" in Rolling Stone and gave it his highest rating in his Consumer Guide column in The Village Voice writing of the album's significance: "If Nirvana and Robert Johnson are rock's essence for you, so's To Bring You My Love. But if you believe the Beatles and George Clinton had more to say in the end, this could be the first PJ album you adore as well as admire."NME hailed it "a magnificent, life-affirming opus".
A minority of critics, however, rated it as only average. Pitchfork viewed the album as lacking in distinction, saying "the sheen gets slicker and her music gets duller". However, Pitchfork later ranked it at #124 in their "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s" list in 2009, remarking, "it turns out that Happy PJ can be just as compelling as Tortured PJ, and sometimes even as scary". And Slant Magazine criticized the album's New York focus as "its flaw is in its all-too-obvious intention".
The album earned Harvey BRIT Award nominations as Best British Female Artist for two years running, as well as two Grammy Award nominations for Best Rock Album and Best Female Rock Performance for the single "This Is Love". For the album, Harvey was nominated for the 2001 Mercury Prize for the third time (her previous nominations were for Rid of Me and To Bring You My Love). The award ceremony was held on September 11, 2001. Harvey was in Washington, D.C. on that day and witnessed the events at the Pentagon from her hotel room window. She was announced as the winner and accepted her award by phone, saying "It has been a very surreal day. All I can say is thank you very much, I am absolutely stunned." The win made Harvey the first female solo artist to receive the Mercury Prize in the awards history. The album was ranked number eight on Rolling Stone's list of The 50 Essential "Women In Rock" Albums. In 2002, Q magazine named "Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea" the Greatest Album of All-Time by a Female Artist. In 2006, the album was chosen by Time as one of the 100 best albums of all time. In 2009, Pitchfork named the album the 124th Top Album of the 2000s. In 2009, NME also placed the album inside their Top 100 Greatest Albums Of The Decade, at number 6 Rolling Stone named it the thirty-fifth best album of the decade.
All songs written by PJ Harvey.
"Big Exit" - 3:51,
"Good Fortune" - 3:20,
"A Place Called Home" - 3:43,
"One Line" - 3:14,
"Beautiful Feeling" - 4:00,
"The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore" - 4:01,
"This Mess We're In" (featuring Thom Yorke) - 3:57,
"You Said Something" - 3:19,
"Kamikaze" - 2:24,
"This Is Love" - 3:48,
"Horses in My Dreams" - 5:38,
"We Float" - 6:07,
"This Wicked Tongue" - 3:42 (UK & Japan bonus track),
Singles and promo videos:
"A Place Called Home",
"This Is Love"/"You Said Something" (two versions),
"You Said Something",
All personnel credits adapted from the album's liner notes.
PJ Harvey - vocals, guitar (1-3, 5-11), bass (1), keyboards (3, 4, 8, 10), piano (12), djembe (12), maracas (6), e-bow (12), producer, engineer,
Rob Ellis - drums (2, 3, 6-12), piano (2, 3, 7, 11, 12), tambourine (1, 8, 10), synthesizer (2), keyboards (12), bells (12), harpsichord (1), electric piano (2), vibraphone (4), background vocals (11, 12), producer,
Mick Harvey - organ, bass, drums (1, 4), percussion, harmonium (1), keyboards (7, 9, 10), accordion (4), background vocals (11, 12), producer,
Thom Yorke - vocals (4, 5, 7), keyboards (4),
Victor Van Vugt - engineer, mixing (1-11),
Head - engineer, mixing (12),
Howie Weinberg - mastering,
Rob Crane - design,
Maria Mochnacz - design, photography,