Release Date: Aug 31, 2018
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Art Rock
Anna Calvi took a five-year break after releasing 2013's One Breath, but the intervening time didn't diminish the grand sound she's been cultivating since her debut. From the title track's breathy opening to the soaring melody of "Away," her gift for elucidating the drama of a bygone era is intact and just as effective. If anything, the lustily provocative nature of her artistry reaches its dizzy apex on Hunter.
Gender norms are questioned throughout, from the traditionally macho album title to radio-friendly lead single "Don't Beat The Girl Out of My Boy", both of which act as precursors to the scene-setting swagger, of album opener "As A Man". Via a trademark soprano soar, she wonders if by embracing her masculinity would she understand her lover better: "If I was a man and opened my body / oh would I now understand you completely". An intense period of breathless silence follows, before she declares, "when you're not walking and talking… as a man" setting a spectacular vocal precedent for this album.
Anna Calvi recently told the Evening Standard that she feels she's always made queer music, and therefore doesn't consider her third album, Hunter, a coming-out moment, but the British singer-songwriter has never expressed her gender fluidity as directly as she does here. She ponders whether more fully embracing her masculinity would allow her to understand her lover on the jaunty “As a Man,” while on “Don't Beat the Girl Out of My Boy,” she decries the gender binary, demanding that modern culture move beyond placing people's identities into rigidly predetermined, all-or-nothing categories. Hunter is steeped in sex, as its songs explore desire in both its primal and transcendent extremes; not for nothing does Calvi appear drenched in sweat on the album's cover.
Rating: NNNN Over three full-length albums, Anna Calvi has been chasing a state of music nirvana. She's passionately invested in the idea that if she stretches her guitar and voice beyond their limits, she'll break through this worldly plane into some higher state where God notes preside. She's so rock 'n' roll in that sense: an artist who'll die on stage in service to her music.
Hunter is a hedonist's call to dismantle normative ideas surrounding gender, and a vivid rumination on primal desire. The title track and lead single is a breathy seduction, pulsating with ecstatic synths and muddy guitar distortions. Calvi's sound is richly cinematic - you can see the light playing on the water in the shimmering harp sounds of 'Swimming Pool', which rises to the orchestral heights of Busby Berkeley's synchronised swimming beauties, and the windscreen wipers in the racing urgency of 'Wish', as if driving breakneck through a downpour in the throes of an all-consuming obsession.