PJ Harvey

During the alternative rock explosion, several female singer/songwriters rose to prominence, but few have proved as distinctive or as widely praised as Polly Jean Harvey. Over the course of her career, Harvey established herself as one of the most individual and influential songwriters of her era, exploring themes of sex, love, and religion with unnerving honesty, dark humor, and a twisted theatricality. At the outset, she led the trio PJ Harvey, which delivered her stark songs with bruisingly powerful, punkish abandon, as typified by the 1992 debut Dry. Over time, however, the subtle and artistic side of Harvey has prevailed. Her 2001 album Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea featured a heady mix of trip-hop, guitar rock, and troubadourism, earning her the prestigious Mercury Prize. Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Harvey continually shifted gears (to the delight of critics and fans), from the sparse Uh Huh Her to the art rock of Let England Shake. (The latter earned her a second Mercury Prize, making her the only artist to have done so.)