After a few years without a new LP, Anna Calvi returns with a fury to show everyone how much she’s grown. By mixing sounds all over the sonic palette with her powerhouse voice, this record feels like a long-lost classic you finally just got around to listening to. It offers so much that its rare slow moments can start to feel dull at times by comparison.
With an intoxicating drum line to enhance its simple groove, “As A Man” pulls you right in from the outset, and long before Calvi’s entrancing vocals. The strange harmonies, autoharp chords and additions throughout the song will have you getting even more excited before its massive jump of a bridge. “Hunter” however is a fantastical and triumphant beauty of a track, taking a Kate Bush-style energy and throwing on enough grime to keep you on your toes. Again and again, Calvi’s additions not only make the song more magical but even more fun to sing along to like an eighties power-ballad.
“Don’t Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy” presents a similarly grand spirit in its sound, with everyone of Calvi’s cries elevating this feeling. It’s her inspiring message and the way she says it that makes the song really stick and feel unique however. By “Indies or Paradise” Calvi is already pulling out weird slinking bass line that will creep you out if you’re not rocking out. Even this far in the record, I found myself smiling enough at all the unexpected turns and delivery from both vocals and the band on each song that I couldn’t wait to hear what came next.
Though “Swimming Pool” feels like a riff on so many theatrical and classical pop songs (Fly Me To The Moon in some cases), it sees Calvi bringing a darkness to it that avoids corny tropes. Even though it lacks a momentum quite like the other songs on the record, there’s a hypnotic quality that is triumphant an exciting to it. There’s such a danger to “Alpha” that’s mirrored in every punch of drums, growling piano and guitar that it’s hard to believe Calvi isn’t truly some mysterious movie character at times. Needless to say, this song is so dynamically performed that you’ll be too swept up to notice it’s ending.
“Chain” comes out swinging with so many ecstatic vocal cries that by the time Calvi is questioning our very understanding of gender, you’re already on board. The cherry on top however is the breaks where vocals scream out of the ether, with tension making you need the next drop in the song like a fix. Even the slinking of guitar strings feels like a sultry effect on “Wish” where each instrument is building this seductive rush of sounds. Though you’d think the dreamy synth breaks would totally mess up the song’s flow, Calvi uses them as such a strong dynamic tool that solos feel fun again.
Calvi strips so much away on “Away” that it takes quite a moment to feel like it’s even part of the same album. But it’s emotional tenderness assures that she can really blow audiences away with little more than her voice. The cinematic quality hits its peak on “Eden” where Calvi is even able to create a sense of place amidst all her different lyrics and sounds. As a serene album closer, it really hits you hard.
Words by Owen Maxwell