Release Date: Jan 15, 2016
Record label: Kscope
As the music world comes to the terms with the loss this week of the great David Bowie, it seems an appropriate time to celebrate the qualities of creativity and originality that he so consummately embodied. Of course, there will never be another Ziggy Stardust, but every once in a while, a new artist appears who is genuinely doing something different to anyone else out there. With the release of her debut album Confessions Of A Romance Novelist, Welsh song writer and multi-instrumentalist The Anchoress thrusts herself firmly into that category.
Catherine Ann Davies is many things: singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, PhD. The polymath behind the Anchoress creates a series of personas on this engaging, meticulously crafted album, using her versatile, smoky voice to plumb the depths of heartache and touch triumphant registers. “Long Year” busts down the door with PJ Harvey-esque swagger, creating an echoing, layered soundscape that sets the stage for the world we are about to inhabit for the rest of the album.
The richness of this debut album from Welsh singer-songwriter Catherine Anne Davies betrays its years in the making, through griefs, injuries and heartbreaks paid wry tribute to in the darkly dreamy 70s pop of Doesn’t Kill You. Styles from the romping Kate Bushisms of Popular to the Princely post-punk of One for Sorrow are stitched together by the theme of the titular “second-rate writer”, sketching portraits of bitter ex-lovers in the likes of PS Fuck You, sending up confessional singer-songwriterdom at the same time as crafting a blackly witty breakup album. That concept could come through more clearly, and on the slower, heavier piano ballads such as Bury Me, the drama of Davies’s gothic Broadway stylings can grow suffocating, but her vengeful vision remains compelling.
Despite it featuring a track titled P.S. Fuck You, there’s something that feels rather staid about this debut from singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Catherine Ann Davies. Belonging vaguely to the tradition of jaunty, mildly eccentric sophistipop, the Anchoress sits in a nice but not particularly exciting place between the parental indie of the Beautiful South, goth-rock as filtered through the fingers of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and the antic posturing of Marina and the Diamonds.
A female hermit you say, dictionary? No, Catherine Ann Davies is definitely not the shy, retiring sort. The Anchoress is the latest iteration of her persona following releases under the name Catherine A.D. and collaborating on more projects than you can waft a wand at. Confessions Of A Romance Novelist is bursting at the corset, dressing female identity in a rich and varied wardrobe.