Release Date: Mar 1, 2011
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
ANNA CALVI plays Wrongbar March 11. See listing. Rating: NNNNN The self-titled album often acts as a musician's mission statement, a way of saying "here's what I'm about" and asserting that innate, guiding truth in a musician's approach. No matter what singer/guitarist Anna Calvi releases in the future, on her impressive debut LP she's able to convey a lot with seemingly very little.
When one of the most successful independent record labels of the past decade puts out only a mere smattering of work by female solo artists, you can’t help but feel that they’ve got something of a mental block. However, it seems that [b]Domino[/b] were just waiting for the right woman to come along.[a]Anna Calvi[/a] is certainly that. Rather than the Brit School background that seems par for the course for any hotly tipped British female solo talent, [a] Anna Calvi[/a] is instead the product of a rather more traditional music degree at Southampton Uni.
While Anna Calvi’s eponymous debut opens with a Bad Seeds–worthy Southern-gothic-requiem instrumental flourish (and like Herr Cave, Ms. Calvi has a charming penchant for name-checking the Prince of Darkness), she tempers her more sordid proclivities with a cultivated, almost modern-classical spatiality—which suggests she’s clocked a few studious hours with Mssrs. Satie and Debussy.
Citing the likes of Debussy, Captain Beefheart, and Nina Simone as her main influences, it's clear from the outset that Anna Calvi isn't your average, run-of-the-mill singer/songwriter. She may have been tipped for success by everyone from the broadsheet music press to Brian Eno, but her blend of sultry blues-rock and dark, mysterious flamenco is a million miles away from the chart-friendly output of her fellow Sound of 2011 nominees. Her self-titled debut, therefore, is unlikely to reap the same commercial rewards as the likes of Jessie J and Clare Maguire, its uncompromising, gothic, David Lynch-esque nature certainly won't spawn any bite-size TV ad soundtracks or airplay favorites your mom can sing along to.
Picture a candlelit bedroom at midnight. Picture a raven-haired seductress, body sheathed in a silky negligee, eyes locked with yours as she lingeringly peels off a stocking … Such is the carnal atmosphere of Anna Calvi's debut album. Her music seethes with so much sexual tension you fear it might combust – and when it does, as on the galloping, feverish Desire and the spiralling Blackout, the effect is glorious.
“Chanteuse”. There y’go. For those too cool, too fast, to read a full review, there’s your one word water cooler response. “Chanteuse”. Eternally glamorous, but perennially doomed nightclub torch-song singer with a skeleton army in their closet. A dark heart, fawned over, but always ….
Anna Calvi recently listed classical composer Claude Debussy, filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, and Flamenco music as influences on her self-titled debut album. While none of these signifiers seem to directly shape her music, Calvi's record feels like it has much in common with cinema and literature. She uses sonic textures to evoke feelings-- from spaghetti-western guitars to her lung-busting take on gothic melodrama.
The importance of good timing should never be underestimated. If Anna Calvi had released her debut a couple of years ago she would have been thrown in with fellow large-lunged Londoner Florence Welch. Released prior to that and the music press would have included her in the scene that sprung up in Amy Winehouse's wake, or even linked her to the sixties and cinema influenced sound of The Last Shadow Puppets.
It’s easy to feel somewhat sorry for Anna Calvi. Not because it’s rather likely that there’s a once shattered heart sobbing at the core of her being, but by considering where she currently finds herself. Emerging from the basement where she’s been busy capturing her guitar noodlings for the past three years, she's now releasing her debut album on one of the most influential independent labels of recent times (Domino) and - somewhat relatedly - party-crashing the BBC’s hype-begets-hype Sound of...
A fully formed, multi-faceted sound that engages the listener from the first note. Chris White 2010 Before even releasing her debut album, Anna Calvi has been lauded by Brian Eno, included in the BBC’s influential Sound of 2011 list and toured with Interpol and Nick Cave’s Grinderman. Dizzy heights indeed for a young woman with just one single to her name, but a string of intense, captivating live shows over the past year have generated a buzz of excitement about this London-based, half-Italian singer-songwriter.
Marsha Ambrosius Love is slow-motion ecstasy when it’s right, and ache and anger when it’s not, on Marsha Ambrosius’s “Late Nights & Early Mornings” (J). Ms. Ambrosius, formerly of Floetry, wrote or collaborated on most of the album’s songs, and she sings them lavishly, full of sultry ….