Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi
Record Label: Domino Records
Release Date: January 14, 2011
It is unsurprising that Anna Calvi's self-titled début has seen great popularity in France. Her sound is reminiscent of the late Édith Piaf; she possesses the romance and passion that Piaf's songs had. What's more, Calvi’s vocals have a certain degree of masculinity and it makes her sound older than she is. But like Piaf, she is undoubtedly feminine. She reveals so much of herself in these ten songs – on show alongside her unique delivery is an exciting musicality, and lyrics that reveal her intense desire.
Although all the songs are very artistic, quite a few of them are easy listens. A fast tempo in songs like ‘Blackout’ and “Desire” allow you to get into them quickly. “First We Kiss” is a desperate but charming cry for intimacy; a highlight of the album. Anna is vulnerable throughout this record; even when she is yelling, her lyrics concede her dependence. Or perhaps it’s all deliberate. You cannot help but try to understand her desire. She’s inviting you in, and so you listen intently to each word. It’d be rude not to.
For guitar enthusiasts, Calvi boasts the unmistakeable tones of the Vox AC30 amplifier throughout the album. She is quite the talented guitarist actually, and evidence of this is dotted around the record. The instrumental track "Rider to the Sea!" is epic, yet surprisingly mature and not what you expect the album to open with. Anna's continual use of dynamics in the song “I’ll Be Your Man” creates perhaps the hardest rock moment on the album. "Love Won’t Be Leaving" is the big finish. With strong vocals and an improvised solo, Anna cleverly manages to prevent the track from becoming excessively indulgent. She does just enough to create that cinematic feel, as though you're watching the end of an old French romantic film.
Interestingly though, we’re always given epic in measured doses. Indeed Anna Calvi’s set is mostly stripped down to just vocals, guitar, percussion and a harpsichord. Every now and then though, she unleashes something bold. She’s love-struck and persistent, “the beat of my heart … it's beating and it's coming, coming, coming for you.” They’re little climaxes. Anna suppresses a beast, and unleashes it in bursts, and in different forms. As an abrupt choral bridge in ‘Suzanne and I’, or in the drummer’s build up to the whines of “I’ll be Your Man”. The rollercoaster of emotion on display on this album is what makes it memorable.
That is not to say that in an hour from now the songs will still linger in my head. Where this album lacks is in catchy hooks. But then again, is that such a bad thing? Anna Calvi's music is like medication. Perhaps the effects don't last the whole day. But you know it's good for you. Just for forty minutes or so, Anna Calvi's at the wheel and you sit back and enjoy the ride. But then eventually you get off the bus. Until the next time you just want to get away.