Beguiling to hear, bewitching to see; Anna Calvi is an artist I’ve been interested in writing about since before I started this blog. There have been many comparisons to Jeff Buckley which I can certainly recognise. Her guitar sound is definitely reminiscent of Jeff (clean, yet biting, courtesy of Leo Fender’s finest creation) and in certain areas there are touches of the deceased wonder e.g. The harmonium tinged ‘Morning Light’ echoes ‘Lover, You Should Have Come Over’. The ghosts of Roy Orbison and Duane Eddy also linger around Calvi’s lacerating guitar tone. However, despite what some critics will say Calvi’s debut is no Grace and is certainly not a ‘This-is-what-they-would-be-doing-if-they-were-still-alive’ moment. And that is a good thing. It is clear that Anna is incredibly serious about her music and I’m sure she would agree when I say that such declarations do her music a disservice. Comparisons are flattering; declarations of Second Coming are not.
Instead, Calvi’s music seems to have more in common with the music of Bat for Lashes, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave (who personally invited her to support Grinderman on tour) and Ennio Morricone. What I love in her music, along with the aforementioned artists, is her ability to create entire worlds with her music. Calvi’s songs play out like a movie scene lifted from Byronic poetry. The teasing tango in the fleeting glances stolen between two lovers. The shadowy fumbling while the door key refuses to enter the lock. The midnight confessions in the candle light. The hearts left shattered like glass in the streets, while mourned love flows into the gutters. Calvi’s songs invoke crepuscular worlds of passionate trysts and broken vows, where living with your heart on the edge of a knife is the only true meaning of existence. These are worlds we have glimpsed in those rare instances in which we have briefly surrendered ourselves to purely living in the moment. In Calvi’s self titled debut, these moments are eternal.
From the opening instrumental ‘Rider to the Sea’, echoing the haunted deserts invoked in Morricone’s spaghetti western soundtracks, to the wailing denouement of ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’, Calvi’s eponymous debut crackles with electricity and seductive drama. ‘I’ll Be Your Man’ is a perfect example of her dynamically fierce approach. Informed by her varying influences from blues to opera, Calvi’s voice soars on the chorus while the predatory guitar prowls during the verses like a sole lioness in the desert, before heading for the kill in the outro. Calvi is backed by multi-instrumentalist Mally Harpez and drummer Daniel Maiden-Wood who perfectly support and complement Anna’s bombastic vision and together the trio form an intimate, but sinister sounding live set-up.
Calvi was recently listed in The Guardian’s festival guide as an essential experience for festival goers and I for one am ambivalently glad of this recognition. When chancing upon a precious stone of breathtaking beauty, the initial reaction is always to quickly conceal it from all others and hide it away for your sole fascination. The same is true when coming across such a wondrous talent as Anna Calvi. However, you soon realise that the true pleasure lies in sharing such a mind imprinting experience. So if you are heading to any festival Calvi is performing at, I strongly urge you to seek her out and allow yourself to be awe struck. If not then buy her album, for having listened to it since its release I can strongly predict that it will be album of the year on many a critic’s list, especially The Sun Also Rises’.
Anna Calvi’s debut is available from record stores on Domino now.