Anna Calvi - S/T

Tom Reed 28/02/2011

Rating: 4.5/5

Anna Calvi has been drawing praise from all corners in the past few months, and is a genuinely independent figure in the current music scene. It's been a while since music fans have had a dynamic, guitar-slinging female singer songwriter to get excited about, and I'm not neglecting people like Laura Marling in that statement. Calvi has a sound and image unlike most female performers, maybe since PJ Harvey in her Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea days.

Calvi takes that image and ladles on gothic production, semi-operatic vocals and some genuinely virtuosic guitar playing to create a haunting, intense atmosphere. The album starts bravely with guitar instrumental Rider To The Sea, Calvi's Telecaster conjuring waves of rippling, reverb-drenched chords with Hendrix-esque flair. Musically, the songs take their cue from classic rock n'roll (even nabbing a Roy Orbison lyric on Desire) to the point you can imagine them scoring a smoky bar scene from a Tarantino movie.

Her guitar is not her only weapon though, as the rest of the album proves. Her voice has great range, from sensuous whisper to booming, almost masculine howls. The Devil is a great example of this, as she conjures shivers from the listener with soaring, wordless melodies in a way we've not heard from anyone since Jeff Buckley. Her lyrics are often lascivious and lustful, but combining them with her lush voice and arrangements means their overall effect remains sophisticated.

This is an incredibly assured, confident debut from a real talent. As closer Love Won't Be Leaving is wrapped in lush, cinematic strings at its climax, you are left to ponder where Calvi will go next. Will she become a musical magpie, flitting between different styles a la PJ Harvey, or continue along the dark, mysterious path she starts out on here? Either way, this is a serious contender for debut record of 2011. And it's only February.