Anna Calvi: A Debut Hard To Ignore [2011]

In Reviews on 25 July 2011 at 11:35

Have you ever imagined what would happen if Nick Cave and PJ Harvey made love in some dark alley one very rainy evening? I have not, at least until now, but it seems Anna Calvi’s music comes very close to the expected result. Dark and twisted, still incredibly seductive in a bit disturbing way: she definitely is much more than just another sweet little gal with a guitar.

All begins with a gloomy guitar, blurry drums and a tiny shade of Buckleyish vibe, but much heavier. Then the voice softly breaks in, with the very first chords of No More Words. Nothing pushy, just enough to intrigue.  As the song opens up, it reaches the culmination point only to fade away again. The waiting game, lazy and beautiful. Teasing continues, tension builds up until it erupts with the strongest and brightest four minutes of the album: Desire. Everything is in the voice: it suddenly becomes strong and rebellious, brave and thrilling. The song literally runs, seems like it is speeding up with every chorus. Echoes of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey are the clearest here. Still it has nothing to do with copying or replication, rather conscious reincarnation of the two combined with Anna’s firm individuality. The stormy Twin Peaks mood does not stop here. Suzanne & I evolves with haunting vocals accompanied by retro dirty guitar and a weighty beat. If I had to compare First We Kiss to anything, it would probably be paso doble, Spanish dance that illustrates corrida. The arena is small here, the end predictable. She is doomed to give in, the passion overcomes her body and mind: even if she could, she would not run away. It is all clear, it is all lost, at this point there is no way back. Choir builds up the drama even more, the perfect apogee. Daddy Cave must be proud. Resignation replaces temptation in down tempo, melancholic ballad The Devil, followed by the weakest moment of Anna CalviBlackout. I say the weakest only because it stands out from the very brilliant rest. The dark, bluesy I’ll Be You Man, sentimentally delicate Morning Light and Love Won’t Be Leaving give the whole a spectacular yet not over the top finish.

Overall sound of the record has serious Spanish/flamenco influences, impossible not to notice every time the guitar comes in. There is also a taste of a very sexual, almost carnal atmosphere, both in the way Anna sings and the music itself. I do believe though, that voice is Anna’s weapon of choice – with its strength and width she is able to create layers of different moods. Sometimes it is anger, other times seduction, until it reaches the point of despair. Her looks emphasize the impression: red lips in opposition to distinct eyebrows and sharp, almost masculine facial features. Only when it comes to lyrics, I am not entirely convinced, though the entire result remains very stylish and classy.

Anna Calvi seduced not only journalists and audience, but also such prominent figures of music industry as Brian Eno or Nick Cave, who invited Calvi to open his shows with Grinderman. Hopefully, all that hype will not interfere with her talent too much. As she said herself, when asked what kind of experience creating the album was to her: It’s all about how to survive the making of this monster that took over three years of my life. Well girl, we would like to see the rest of those creatures you hide in the back of your head, because judging by this one, you have a sizeable potential to steal hearts.

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