This level of achievement demands a frank introduction: Anna Calvi’s self-titled debut is brilliant. The London based, half-Italian artist has unleashed an overpowering howl of defiance, lovelorn desperation and incomparable passion on 2011. It’s a defiant introduction from a woman who will surely become a household name by the end of the year.
The most important characteristic of this record is that it charges at convention. Calvi doesn’t resort to the schizophrenic pop of recent times to manipulate her audience – instead her operatic tendencies tower over normality. Her music commands the dizzying rush to fame she’s enjoyed because of its otherworldly construction. By all accounts, her material is unique.
Calvi’s been aided in no small part by Rob Ellis’ production. A previous cohort of PJ Harvey, his influence here is obvious. In the moments where Calvi’s atmospheric gloom threatens to oppress, Ellis presents a stark and liberating percussion. When she dares to noodle, a subtle but persistent melody is cranked up. Ellis is the hand that soothes the hurt, and provokes Calvi onto greener pastures. Without his involvement, Anna Calvi could have been smothered by self-indulgency.
Consequently the most poignant moments are where the music breaks through the album’s restrictive air. Following ‘No More Words’, ‘Desire’ and ‘Suzanne and I’ could soundtrack the headless horseman’s advance, as he prepares to cast his first devastating blow. Both tracks pound with a burning fire, claw at your chest, and are utterly breathtaking. Likewise final track ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’ offers a bellow after the relatively subdued hush of ‘Morning Light’.
Despite the prominence of some, none of these tracks are expendable. Every minute contributes to and builds upon the album’s overall ambience. It’s a daring yet calculated move by Calvi, and will undoubtedly pay off in the form of a blossoming and devoted fan base. Rightly so – Britain has found a fantastic virtuoso in this lady.