Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi
Her self-titled debut album promises more of this delightful stuff, opening with “Rider to the Sea”, a Ry Cooder-esque instrumental that’s simple, eerie and tumbleweedy, building up to an edgy crescendo and then segueing happily into “No More Words”, which marries Calvi’s voice at its sweetest low with a nostalgic, mysterious melody.
But then things start to get big. Bold, brash, full of contrasts, this is an album of cinematic proportions. At its lush, dark, sexiest best it’s a soundtrack David Lynch could use. At its most glamorous and unsubtle it’s the theme to a Bond film that has lost its sense of humour.
Calvi’s voice is huge – operatic and deep, with an unwavering intensity. In the less successful songs, such as the slightly clichéd “Suzanne & I”, the vocals are borderline Shirley Bassey. Booming through several melodramatic, over-the-top numbers in a row it can begin to feel like a bit of a barrage.
But when allowed to vary it’s a delight. “Morning Light” provides a gentle reprieve from the bombardment, letting the vocals settle down into a quiet softness that somehow remains full and sonorous. And in “The Devil”, as Calvi sings huskily up and down the scales accompanied by a fiendish flamenco-style guitar, we get a nice juxtaposition of drama and understatement.
Young, loud and challenging, this album is a demanding listen. It’s a devil of a thing to sit through. And although rewarding, a little more of that variety might have made it more easily palatable. Perhaps I’m getting old, but occasionally throughout I couldn’t help but think longingly of Calvi’s hypnotic instrumentals, yearning for that angelic peace and quiet.
Released: Thu 3rd Feb 2011