Album Review

Anna Calvi

Anna Calvi

by Anna Calvi


Domino
8.5 / 10
10th May 2011

Reviewed by Vincent Michaelsen


On paper, the music of Anna Calvi appears a little crazy. Sounding somewhere between a Nina Hagen goth opera, Spanish flamenco and a few prominent English songstresses, it’s hard to imagine how it all comes together. The surprisingly shy seductress is no less intriguing. Classically trained with a penchant for Ravel and Debussy and the ability to deliver, so convincingly, a Hendrix inspired guitar riff, there is little wonder how Calvi has managed to attract such attention before the release of a debut album.

It’s a slow start into the album but intense no doubt. ‘Rider To The Sea’, the album’s daunting Kill Bill styled instrumental opener acts somewhat as a prologue to the album, letting the listener know what they’re in for - that this is about more than just chart toppers. Unfortunately for those who may have turned away at the onset, there would be plenty of hits to come. ‘Desire’, the first of a few tracks that really define the album is an unreserved foray into lust and ah…desire. Though not particularly profound or intricate lyrically, the songs aren’t left wanting, as chorus lines like “It’s heavenly, heavenly desire” seem to fairly well tell us what we need to know. In ‘The Devil’ we hear a rare break in Calvi’s operatic bravado, which can sometimes conceal the emotion of the songs - the result being intimate to the point of shivers, creating one of the best songs on the album.

Perhaps what I find most gripping about this album is Calvi’s ability as a musician, both technically and in composition. As the liner-notes will attest, this is no band of slouches, Calvi herself writing and recording everything bar harmonium and drums. And while a good deal of the world’s great albums may have been produced by musicians who were still in the early days of learning their craft, Calvi knows exactly what she’s doing, or at least sounds like it. Rather than coming from a series of happy accidents, these tracks sound as if they’ve been meticulously sculptured, every note and accentuated beat tailored to fit it’s purpose. Calvi’s vocal melody especially seems to find that note which after so many listens is still unexpected and just works so well. And though this is all very good and well for one’s listening pleasure, it has it’s trade-offs. The album at times can seem a little labored, and difficult to engage with. If there is one bone to be picked with the record it’s that despite the album dealing so much in passion and lust, one is never completely swept away, so to speak.

Late last year when Anna Calvi released her debut single Jezebel/Moulinette, she staked a claim on what would become her self-titled debut album. Specifically, a full-blown record, both seductive and empowering with the credentials to bridge generations of both genres and listeners alike. Anna Calvi’s first album wont be something you’ve never heard before but it certainly has it’s idiosyncrasies. And despite strong links to fellow British artists PJ Harvey and Florence Welch it was still a brave album to make. By drawing herself away from her pop sensibilities Calvi has taken some definite risks, but risks that have been paid back in spades.






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