Anna Calvi garnered instant acclaim straight out of the box. Her self-titled debut earned her several prestigious awards, among them, a nomination for the Mercury Prize and the special distinction of being named British Breakthrough Act at the 2012 Brit Awards. Follow-up One Breath secured a second Mercury Prize nomination, no small accomplishment for an artist who once claimed she was too nervous to even sing in the shower.
Apparently, her self-doubt’s been banished for good, and given the evidence offered on her latest album Hunter, Calvi’s clearly got the confidence needed to take her place among the echelon of Britain’s new musical elite. Brian Eno has sung her praises and become a mentor. David Byrne and Marianne Faithfull have shared their support. A classically trained violinist, Calvi’s won kudos for her guitar work, songwriting and unique style. Still, it’s her voice that commands, courtesy of a delivery that rises from a whisper and then soars with startling effect.
It follows then that the songs on Hunter are consistently engaging to say the least, from the ratcheted up undertow of the harrowing “Out of My Boy” to the subdued “As a Man.” On a song like “Chain,” her voice approximates a ghostly haze, leading to what can only be described as a decidedly surreal encounter. “Swimming Pool” finds a middle ground, swooping and then subsiding, and while “Indies of Paradise” keeps things on an even keel, the flow of her melodies, no matter how seemingly sedate, can’t mask an inherent drama and longing. On the other hand, songs such as “Wish” and “Away” tend to seduce the listener, providing a sense of calm.
To call Calvi’s sound simply captivating hardly seems sufficient. Indeed, charisma and mystique are key components in her musical arsenal. Yet she’s also an elusive chanteuse who’s obviously intent on surprising her listeners with strange, celestial sounds indicative of ambiance and atmosphere. Her’s is a sound that’s daunting and distinctive, brash yet beguiling.