PJ Harvey: “A Child’s Question, August”

Even after recording an album in a glass boxPJ Harvey somehow retains a sense of mystery. In the video for her new song, “A Child’s Question, August,” which presages her first solo LP in seven years, the singer-songwriter gazes into the camera lens with hooded eyes, superimposed over a backdrop of waving fields, crooked trees, notebook scribble. It’s a disarmingly simple, direct-sounding return: “Love me tender/Tender love,” she sings in her softest and most inviting register. Harvey has rarely sought to comfort, but that’s what “A Child’s Question, August” does. It feels warm, even soothing.

Still, an irreducible strangeness shimmers out of the song, as it seems to from everything Harvey touches. There’s something logy, even glassy-eyed, in the halting rhythm of her guitar, just a few capo’d chords high up the neck; something oddly ominous in her pastoral imagery (“Rooks tell stories across the corn”). As echo, reverb, and delay swarm the little song’s edges like twilight insects, Polly Jean Harvey recedes, gently, back into inscrutability, where we’ve always found her.