A banshee of the blues, an illicit ingenue, a rage-filled rocker -- Polly Jean Harvey has all these parts. Her fifth full-length, Is This Desire?, shows her dramatic musical range broadening further still. She delves deeper into the imagistic assets of electronica, while still maintaining the tangled theatricality that made 1995’s To Bring You My Love so engaging, and her first two albums so raw and visceral. Functioning as the musical common denominator, Harvey’s voice keeps Is This Desire? from getting lost in its own far-reaching ambition, allowing the odd tonalities of "Electric Light" and "Joy" or the subtle blues of the title track to sit comfortably next to beautiful piano-driven pieces like "The River" and "Angelene." Harvey again proves herself a convincing narrator capable of creating intriguing sound collages. Is This Desire? also welcomes drummer Rob Ellis back into the band, who gives songs like "Perfect Day Elise" bouncy rock momentum. Harvey’s relatively short and extraordinary varied songs never wear out their welcome, making Is This Desire? another milestone in her already illustrious career.

Ted Hendrickson