Hunter is a tale wherein the woman is the heroine of her own story. She is the protagonist, the antagonist, the ugly sister, and the prince—this, rather than princess. Gender roles aside, Calvi grins as she asks rhetorically, "Why would you just want to be passively waiting for someone in a tower?"—she is what she sets out to be, and she is more.

Anna Calvi is more.

Anna Calvi's Hunter is about a woman who goes out into the world and sees it as hers; a woman who wants something from it, rather than to wait.

My first meeting with Calvi was at a pub in Stoke Newington, where genius bandmate and instrumental maestro Mally Harpaz was hosting a gig with Blind Dog Studio. I'd mentioned to Mally that I felt bad for not having said hello, but that I was shy and nervous and didn't want to intrude. We were introduced, and shyly exchanged the idea of an interview one day.

That day wound up being the day before Pride in London, set to be in a bar and café-cum-vintage store just up the road from famed Kings Cross venue Scala. The same day, a harem was set up outside of Kings Cross. Baffled and still nervous, I downed an espresso as I watched them assemble hookah tents as a line formed outside of it. Apparently, Rihanna was in town. Or, at least, her makeup line was. And did I mention hookahs?

Anna Calvi's Hunter is about a woman who goes out into the world and sees it as hers; a woman who wants something from it, rather than to wait. Be it me, Calvi, or even Rihanna; we are the hunters.

We are more.

In addition to all of this, Hunter is a queer album. Understandable, then, that on entering the chosen café to rainbow flags, rainbow cake, stickers, fellow queer clientéle, and a beautiful soul behind the counter, I felt safe to sit and write. To sit, to write, and to listen to an album most of us had only, thus far, seen played live, by an artist openly living their truth isn't something that can be explained. If you get it, you get it.

Calvi gets it.

"I felt I wasn't really sharing the whole of me if I didn't express it more openly," she says of her decision to reflect her queerness within Hunter. "I feel so passionately about the things I talk about in this record. I wanted to make the lyrics direct enough that if you want to listen to what I'm saying, there's an open way for you to find out how I feel."

While one of Calvi’s most recognisable tracks, "Suzanne & I", from her self-titled debut, manages to cover the bases of where her heart lies, the formative line was simply the first line that came into her head.

"I didn't even realise, until I'd made the record, that I'd referred to women a lot in it." Her smile hides a giggle we'd save for later, on topics of queer-normative activities we both got up to as kids. "I had a moment of thinking whether or not it was okay, then was like, of course it is. It is what it is, and a lot of people didn't even pick up on it." However, she adds, "the people that needed it, saw it and found it."

"I just feel enriched and inspired by other queer artists, and their work helps me on an emotional level, not just an artistic one."

A month before our meeting, Anna had played three solitary shows to showcase the new album: one in Berlin, one in Paris, and one in London. It was in Paris's La Gaîté Lyrique that I first got to hear tracks like "As A Man", "Chain", and "Indies or Paradise"—my personal favourite. To open the shows, she'd chosen queer DJs and artists, such as frequent Hercules & Love Affair collaborator and intensely brilliant vocalist MC Rouge Mary and, in London, Marika Hackman, amongst others.

"I just feel enriched and inspired by other queer artists, and their work helps me on an emotional level, not just an artistic one," Calvi says. I joke that me and my friend voguing on the dancefloor during the openers was because we felt it too. Yes, that was us, and no, je ne regrette rien. "I just feel like it's really important to support each other and to feel there's a community of people who understand you."

Besides these three tracks, Hunter is a 10-song strong exploration into the relative unknown. Queer voices have always been around, but sometimes it's taken decades since they were spoken or sung to really get pulled into focus. It seems like a better atmosphere these days, with acts like Chris, St. Vincent, and Perfume Genius doing their thing–to name just a few. That said, it also seems like a better atmosphere for those on the outside: specifically the rare voices who state that–because of this–homophobia, misogyny, and transphobia must now be totally overcome.

In some ways, they are. With artists like Calvi revealing their truths through music, there's a vast landscape of queer kids or kids who feel abnormal who are finally able to see themselves in the media they consume—not just through Harry Styles' unlikely, and admittedly confusing, spot in pop culture as a "lesbian icon." However, it's important to note that being open about aspects like queerness and feminism, both of which intersect wonderfully across the breadth of Hunter, doesn't mean that that's all an artist is. An artist is an artist, regardless of all else.

"I remember feeling so horrified when The Gossip came out and everyone would say, ‘Beth Ditto, lesbian,' like it was her title. I don't feel like people do that anymore, and I think that's great. People recognise that your queerness is a big part of the energy you create. But it's not the only thing."

Why? Well. Because no one ever says, "Ed Sheeran, heterosexual."

Seeing Anna Calvi play live has always been a sight to behold. With Hunter, her gigs have become an even more primal experience, a physical one, one where you’re accidentally shoved against a catwalk you think is a table for drinks, but ends up end with your guitar hero crawling along it like an animal. Just like "Indies or Paradise" promises, but with wine instead of trees.

When asked about this rawness, I see the passion in her own pale green eyes rise as she answers, like I've touched a good nerve and the world has exploded into thousands of colours. She's animated. "I needed to use my whole essence and whole body, and just see how far I could take the contrast of being strong and then being vulnerable. Being powerful but intimate, as well."

Hunter is also an album of contrasts, as outlined in her manifesto, the contrast of being the beautiful and the ugly, the male and the female, the hunted and the hunter. Of course, I have to interject here because my espresso had turned into four and one double, and it's a worthy point to bring up: the passionate, seemingly never-ending cavernous roar into the gorge toward the end of the album’s first single, "Don't Beat the Girl Out of My Boy".

She laughs. "Well, that's the amazing thing! When you do something as extreme as that, there's no room for anything else. You become that note because it requires every inch of and cell in and muscle of your body to produce that."

"It feels like you've found something really honest and truthful because there's not actually anything left to hide behind. That's what I like the idea of." And why she likes that her music is genderless? "So much of who we are is performance; performing our gender. If we were to strip away all those layers, what actually is the beating heart of the essence of a person when all of that is gone?"

Art, I think we'd both argue, is one of the only things that would be left. Art, emotion, feelings, and life. All of which are the essence of Hunter and of the new era's live shows. Throwing herself onto the floor to shred, hitting those notes that are rampant within the very recording genetics of the record, dragging her guitar back to her band—Harpaz on percussion, secondary guitar, and synth, and Alex Thomas on drums—is the unadulterated, wild essence of Anna Calvi.

"In those moments of singing these really high notes or playing in a physical way, it's the closest I can come to transcending all of the bullshit."

"I definitely don't feel like I completely fit into the extreme of femininity."

I heard Don't Beat the Girl Out of My Boy in a hostel in Manchester. Give me anything that fucks with gender norms, and I'm a happy bunny, especially if there's an empty can of Fosters balanced precariously over a rainbow flag. In the video for the track, directed by William Kennedy, a chest-bound Calvi appears at the centre of a group of which most have no definitive gender.

The video clip is sexual and it's raw, to the point where you feel flustered when watching it if, that is, you know these certain confinements of society. Most notably, the highlighted culture of straight white men and women. The clip is letting go, choreographed whether consciously or subconsciously, in a way that presents an alternative visual narrative to the video for "Suzanne & I".

"Everything we learn about and study is the culture of straight white men and women alone," Calvi says. "It's a detriment to the other voices that we don't hear—voices of women, people of colour, trans people, disabled people. It really frustrates me that we're only being given a tiny selection. Think of all that's been lost in terms of culture."

In "Don't Beat the Girl Out of My Boy", Calvi was also able to explore an adolescent ill-comfort with particular parts of her body. Most notably, the chest she bound for the video. "I taped up my chest and then was surprised by how liberating I found it," she admits through a genuine smile. "It made me realise that the feeling I had when I was a teenager, that growing this female body was really, really traumatic and alien and so I'd cover my chest to try and make it look flat, that it's kind of still there. Just away and repressed."

Calvi is quick to point out that she doesn't feel transgender, because she can work with the body she has, but the more she—and those of us also searching, as well as the good parts of the world at large—lives through, the more aware she is of the fact that gender is a spectrum.

She clarifies, "I definitely don't feel like I completely fit into the extreme of femininity."

Those extremes of femininity—most accurately portrayed in shows like Sex and the City and, well, just about every form of media or art since time began—can be damaging. Hannah Gadsby's transformative special on Netflix poses the subject of Pablo Picasso—or, as Gadsby ingeniously put it, Picky Asshole—and other artists like him using women as a "flesh vase for their dick flowers". Women and the female form have always been seen through the male gaze. As have all of the marginalised; the femme-presenting men, the butch-working women, and those of us whose identities can't be boxed. With Hunter, Anna Calvi is adding her voice to the colourful chorus that makes up the entire spectrum of human existence.

In songs like "As a Man", Calvi ruminates on how different things may be different if she were a man, which fits well into the artist/muse dichotomy of the female of the species forever being the muse for the genius male. That is if you listen to the straight, white, and largely misogynistic culture of yore. Luckily, Calvi only listens to the things that she's passionate about, and muses for her, while often female, have never been the status quo. When I ask her the first time she saw an artist that helped her get into touch with this alternative form of femininity, she says that the first time she saw a depiction of a woman she actually understood was in the lyrics of "Gloria"; in Patti Smith's version take of the sort of woman who was wholly herself and nobody else.

"This was a woman who wasn't ashamed of her sexuality; who was really strong with it and was just taking whatever she wants." Whether this is about Gloria or Patti herself doesn't matter, in the case of the album, Horses, much like the case of Hunter, the listener will hear what they need. "That meant a lot to me," she adds. "It was also the lusting after another woman, but not in a way that felt like it was for male pleasure. That song was the first of hers that had a powerful effect on me."

As for Patti Smith—who Brian Eno, once upon a time, made it known that Anna Calvi was the best thing he'd heard since—the both of us were amongst the thousands that saw her play All Points East in Victoria Park. Opening her set with the footnotes to Allen Ginsberg's Howl, any artistic soul present, at that point, felt connected by the marijuana hipsters and the crazy shepherdess of rebellion herself.

"She's just such an amazing role model of a real woman," Anna says, and rightfully. "If only films and TV were to show women like her. That's the reality of what a woman is to me."

On Hunter, Calvi succeeds in doing what she set out to do, and in doing so opens her supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul to everybody to listen.

Whether the queer aspects of the record are ignored by listeners or not—track "Chain" describes playing with sexual dominance in the arms of a loving freedom, with the chorus and its instances of I'll be the boy you be the girl, I'll be the girl you be the girl and the proceeding bass-driven Wish musically feels like a journey in and of itself. Building to the operatic chorus of Chérie, your eyes and a rippling guitar riff almost reminiscent of the early 2000s, it feels like a revelation—in ways, to Calvi, it was one.

Off of the back of an eight-year relationship, Calvi had to go about rebuilding her identity by exploring the parts of herself that she'd never been able to explore before. Hunter is almost a diary of that time. In that time between her last album and breakup, she moved to Strasbourg in France, finding freedom and care in the arms of a woman who inspired her to be playful with the queerness she admits has always been there. It's things like this that make such a long time between albums not only good but extremely necessary.

It was also during that time, these beautifully rounded and roundedly beautiful songs were born of what was really inside of her heart to write; of her truth. The second track and title single from the record was the first track to come out of her that signified the direction the rest of the album would take. In "Hunter", she confronts opening the door again, and, presumably, wanting upon want, for love to survive this time. That's why, Calvi says, "Hunter" is dedicated to her girlfriend.

"She's been so supportive throughout the whole process. Especially being a solo artist, you can feel quite alone in it, but having somebody who cares about it as much as me is amazing. I don't feel like I could have done this without her," she smiles. "She showed me this whole new way of having colour in my life and being happy."

Similarly, there are some of us who couldn't do things without Anna Calvi's music. As our conversation comes to a close, I recommend the FX series Pose to her. This important piece of pop culture is based on the ballroom scene of 1980's New York, where marginalised trans people of colour found their families. It's created, produced, written, and acted in by them, too. It's fitting not only because of Calvi's not-exactly-new but very important openness belongs to the same kind of freedom a queer family or queer art or other queer people bring about, but because there's a line in one of the episodes wherein Blanca tells Pray Tell that before she met him, all she saw was black and white. And after he adjusted her focus, she sees in colour.

She smiles even more, "Yeah."

Anna Calvi's Hunter is an invigorating album, one which has a narrative and a purpose and a form to it. On it, she succeeds in doing what she set out to do, and in doing so—to quote Ginsberg a second time—opens her supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul to everybody to listen.

Hunter is out now on Domino Records.