Release Date: Jul 15, 2014
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Anna Calvi has never been one to churn out little nuggets of summery pop, instead choosing to focus on something far more brooding and predatory; the darker side of the human psyche. On the Strange Weather EP, she takes this signature style and applies it to the songs of other artists who share the same particular penchant for music that finds inspiration in the dark recesses of our minds.
Last year, virtuoso guitarist and songwriter Anna Calvi released a great collection of original material titled One Breath that didn’t get the attention that her self-titled debut received. There is no real explaining why, except maybe that it just didn’t catch the right channels of influence, as the press hasn’t been shy about proclaiming adoration of her previously, and she came into the music scene bearing a cosign from Brian Eno. It was an unfortunate lapse in the media, and on her new covers EP, Calvi responds with five non-originals that are going to be hard to not pay attention to.
Anna Calvi shares her creative reinterpretations of others' music on this five-song covers EP, and in turn shows us another side of herself as a performer. The most unexpected is her rumbling take on Suicide's "Ghost Rider," a two-minute, 46-second burst of hard-edged rock which is more anxious and frayed than anything on her two excellent solo LPs. Later, Calvi captures the kinky sexual groove that Connan Mockasin brings to live versions of "I'm the Man, That Will Find You" perhaps better than Mockasin did on his own record.
A stop-gap release between 2013's One Breath and her third full-length studio album, 2014's more than servicable Strange Weather EP rounds up five covers, all of which are delivered with the usual impeccable taste and gothic flair that have become Calvi's trademarks since her debut in 2011. Recorded in New York with Doveman (aka Thomas Bartlett), Strange Weather includes evocative renditions of songs by FKA Twigs ("Papi Pacify"), David Bowie ("Lady Grinning Soul"), Suicide ("Ghost Rider"), Connan Mockasin ("I’m the Man That Will Find You"), and Keren Ann ("Strange Weather"), the latter two of which feature guest vocals from ex-Talking Head and serial collaborator David Byrne. .
It’s only worth doing a version of someone else’s song if you bring something new to it. Anna Calvi certainly does that on this five-track EP of covers. It opens with her take on ‘Papi Pacify’ by FKA Twigs. Calvi transposes the sparse and spooked electronics of the original into guitar twangs, shuffling drums and juddering violins, all blanketed with cavernous echo.
Most covers albums fall into a brief segment of the artist’s career spectrum, somewhere between well-intentioned filler and tossed-off experimentation. But the fury with which gothic pop artist Anna Calvi writes and performs music, as evidenced by last year’s One Breath, would never result in such a blasé release. No, her new covers EP, Strange Weather, burns with an intense, personal grandeur despite its brief runtime and the fact that the songs originated in others’ hands.
Strange Weather, an EP featuring five new covers, sounds like an extension of Anna Calvi’s debut single, 2010’s “Jezebel”, which remains arguably her best song and certainly a deft means of introduction to her commanding voice. Originally a hit for Frankie Laine in 1951, it’s been covered often in various languages and genres, although most versions gently reinforce the song’s matter-of-fact pop sexism. Borrowing from Edith Piaf’s cover (“c’était toi!”), Calvi turns the song into a flamenco rock aria, her voice soaring accusatorily and her guitar providing sinister commentary.
It's not clear why British singer/songwriter Anna Calvi chose these specific songs to cover for her latest release. They're from a seemingly random bunch: alt-R&B trip-hopper FKA Twigs, 70s electro-punks Suicide and David Bowie, to name a few. But since each of the five tunes gets Calvi's signature treatment - haunting vocals and emotional flourishes - the EP sounds perfectly cohesive.
Prodigious titan of alt. rock Anna Calvi – part part sooty-eyed Lady Macbeth, part flamboyant glam-R&B hero – has a reputation for wielding the six-stringer like a murder weapon. The London axesmith’s 2013 effort, entitled One Breath, went down a right treat here at Best Fit: “It’s haughtier, humbler, more powerful, more delicate; it’s like [her debut] was dipping a toe in the sea, and now that she knows that the world rather quite approves of her, she’s ripped the ripcord and is delivering the beast within.” Within her long-form escapades, Calvi’s demonstrated a neo-goth streak and a propensity for grand darkness.