Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea is the fifth studio album by English alternative rock musician PJ Harvey, released on 23 October 2000 by Island Records. Recorded from 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". 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 is generally regarded as one of her best works. In the updated version of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time, it was ranked at number 431.
In 1998, while shooting a film as an actress for Hal Hartley in New York, she felt inspired by the city and wrote several songs. Some of them ended on the following album. In 1999, she chose to live there for nine months. However, she insisted in interviews it was not "my New York album". Songs were also written while she was in London or at home in Dorset. Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea was then recorded at the Great Linford Manor in Milton Keynes in March–April 2000. The record was co-produced by Mick Harvey, 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". She had met Yorke in 1992 and they had stayed in contact. She said: "I'd long been interested in the idea of somebody else singing a whole song on a record of mine, to have a very different dimension brought in by somebody else's voice. It adds so much dynamic within the record to have this other character coming in".
She wanted the record to be more direct: "It's very different musically to the first couple of albums. It's very melodic, and it's much rounder and fuller. The earlier albums were very black and white in some sense, very extreme. Melodically, this is much more sophisticated than those records. It kind of feels like a combination of every album I've made so far rolled into one." The songs were also a musical departure from her previous dark material. 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 of 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.
Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea received critical acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 88, based on 25 reviews. NME hailed it as "a magnificent, life-affirming opus" by Harvey. Robert Christgau called it "the best album of her career" in his review for Rolling Stone.
Other critics rated it as only average. Spencer Owen of Pitchfork Media viewed the album as lacking in distinction, saying "the sheen gets slicker and her music gets duller". The publication later, however, ranked it at number 124 in their "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s" list in 2009.
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 terrorist attacks on 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 award's 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. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Rolling Stone named it the thirty-fifth best album of the decade. .