- Anna Calvi »
- Domino Records »
It’s easy to feel somewhat sorry for Anna Calvi. Not because it’s rather likely that there’s a once shattered heart sobbing at the core of her being, but by considering where she currently finds herself. Emerging from the basement where she’s been busy capturing her guitar noodlings for the past three years, she's now releasing her debut album on one of the most influential independent labels of recent times (Domino) and - somewhat relatedly - party-crashing the BBC’s hype-begets-hype Sound of... 2011 poll, all within barely enough time for her eyes to readjust to the daylight. This, combined with enviable support slots, various bits of blog bumph and notable press mentions, puts her self-titled debut album in a rather dazzling spotlight. Calvi has pricked the attention of all sorts of folks, yet she probably has no interest if they listened to her music or not, let alone if they like or loathe it but share their opinions on social networks, forums and in the shiny pages of magazines, they must...
Three tracks in and 'Desire' begs the question of whether the dominant sound of twenny-'leven will be something like the Florence-ization of tabloid-friendly alternative culture. Calvi, much-like Zola Jesus, Esben & the Witch, Yawnpaint and various other Kate Bush comparison dogged, post-Bat for Lashes ladies (and quite a few post-post-rock boys too, it must be said) inhabits a world where clattering a floor-tom with a mallet and bellowing over it like a barely in tune gospel singer fronting a marching band is what the media and labels think the people’s want. In fact, rather than sounding hypnagogic, Gaga-haus or at all like she sleeps in a witch house, tracks like ‘I’ll Be Your Man’ sound less like something ‘now’ and more like something that could have been released anytime between Lou Reed taking a stroll on the wild side and that moment when Björk walked down a street and turned pop its head and walloped outsider music in its balls.
Pretty much every song could be described as galloping, but as every over-dramatic crescendo reaches its white-horse peak, it becomes evident that this is merely a record clamouring up an extremely well-trodden hillside path. A trail so eroded by those wild-wild horses that have gone before it that there’s a good chance magma might start seeping through. There are times when this record threatens to take you somewhere. But is let down by Calvi’s fallen-folky voice, which never has the disarming Gitane-exhaling charm of Scott Walker, and ends up more of a indiefied David McAlmont wail with a touch of the Shirley Basseys, yet is far too afraid to do anything showy. And whilst we’re on the subject of what this record is not, it’s not particularly like PJ Harvey or St Vincent (which is what reading about it led me, somewhat excitedly, to believe). It’s also not goth-pop, lacking the hooks to be pop and it’s about as 'gothic' as a registry office full of Essex girls. In fact, the eejits calling this a goth record probably walk around the high street heckling bankers wearing charcoal M&S trousers and a navy blue shirt, mocking them for being fully paid-up member of the Cure fanclub. And can we please ban journalists (and the press release writers which a lot of 'journalism' is pilfered from) from describing nearly everything as Lynchian (sub-rhetorical-question: why does Blade Runner get mentioned as an influence and The Fifth Element never get mentioned, anywhere?).
What Calvi’s debut is however, is a mixture of sprawling guitars that teeter somewhere between Tortoise’s mathy noodlings, Deerhunter's brownish hue, Hendrix's fade outs and Howling Bells’ shimmering grunge-gaze. Throw in some occasional tub-thumping and whirl it around a few times like M. Ward at his most raucous and what you're left with is a congealed heap of somewhat forgettable songs that huh-oh a lot but despite repeated listens, never quite deliver a pay-off. Given the hubbub and the trusted label releasing it, it’s just a frustratingly competent listen, that hints that there’s a ‘Tom’s Diner’ a’ coming... but it never does, sadly. If anything, this is a small record caught in the debris of decades gone by, which gains a few bonus points for not being made by someone with a Y chromosome. In terms of whether this really is ‘The Sound of 2011’ the best my head-scratching can offer is that this is semi-symptomatic of the mess music’s in, showing how incredibly unreliable January’s tipping season can be, especially in a not-particularly-vintage year with no paradigm-shifting technological advancements in musical instruments and no truly exceptional new acts with resources behind them. Such a shame, shame, shame...
- In Photos: End Of The Road Festival 2012 @ Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset
- BBC 6Music announces tenth anniversary celebration shows
- Moving Pictures - Videos of the Year: 3rd Quarter 2011
- PJ Harvey favourite to win second Mercury Prize
- In Photos: Reading Festival 2011 - Day 1
- In Photos: Leeds Festival 2011 - Day 2
- In Photos: Field Day 2011 @ Victoria Park, London
- In Photos: Mercury Music Prize Nominations @ The Hospital Club, London