Album Review: Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi

BlackPlastic recently saw one of those 'hot new music tips for 2011' type things that you often get in earlier January. The publication itself escapes us now and isn't really important but in a slightly back-handed compliment type fashion they mentioned Anna Calvi's 'so hot right now' status whilst simultaneously pointing out the ubiquity of female singer-songwriter's in these lists every year these days.

Which feels like an odd thing to do. It sounds a bit like men can be considered musically important all year round but because a few ladies get a look in for a month something mental must be going on. It can't just be because women might actually be good at making music.

Digression aside, how does Anna Calvi actually stack-up? Pretty well in places actually. Let's dispense with the obvious - Anna Calvi sounds a good deal like PJ Harvey. And BlackPlastic aren't the first people to say so. But more importantly at times Anna Calvi also sounds excellent.
Starting with an instrumental in 'Rider To The Sea' it feels as though Anna Calvi is deliberately challenging the listener so only the patient get rewarded. Stick around and it pays off - 'No More Words' is cloying and desperate like being lost inside a dream with someone you can't get out of your head. It's swagger and bravado yet vulnerable at the same time.

'Desire' is exactly the opposite. It reeks of self-assurance - the chorus a triumphant cry of the song's title that sounds like Calvi telling you to take her or leave her. The result is rallying and triumphant. 'I'll Be Your Man' somewhere between the two - at times warped and strung-out yet bound together with a chorus that refuses to be quiet.

BlackPlastic can't help but find the quieter Anna Calvi more intriguing. On 'Morning Light' there are times when Calvi's vocals barely break through the surface tension and the whole thing is very reminiscent of David Lynch's Twin Peaks, sparse and taught and dreamlike. Which is a good thing.

Drenched in bluesy folk vibes and doused in praise Anna Calvi may be but this debut album feels, unsurprisingly, like just that - a debut. There are some great moments here but on the whole it feels like a rather brilliant tribute to other people's ideas rather than an achievement in itself. It just might be the follow-up that really pays off.

BP x

Anna Calvi is out now on Domino, available at on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].