Britain has had its decent share of women dabbling in dark rock: Anna Calvi is just the latest in this line. With her debut album she treads ground that is familiar to fans of PJ Harvey while proving that she is her own woman.
Calvi’s dark and sumptuous sound can perhaps stem from the fact that she benefited from a more classic education: instead of going to the Brit school like many of her peers, she instead studied music at the University of Southampton. It’s this education, particularly that of classical composers, that informs the way she structures her songs. ‘Rider to the Sea’ is a perfect introduction to her virtuosity, an instrumental piece that isn’t overly self-indulgent and maintains an accessible charm. Then we’re treated to something we rarely hear now: a cut-glass accent cutting through the ironically titled ‘No More Words’. The use of RP here might seem pretentious but it somehow works.
The album is quite atmospheric and makes good use of the slide guitar, as well as Calvi’s characteristic purr. She draws on influences like The Cure, on the 80s-inspired ‘Suzanne and I’, but then unleashes her inner Siouxsie Sioux on the thunderous blast of ‘Desire’. It’s charming, and Calvi knows that she’s not a diva – this makes her easier to listen to than, say, the operatic wailings of Florence Welch who often sacrifices good singing for shouting and posing. Calvi’s work doesn’t suffer from crises such as this. She’s firmly in control of what she wants her music to be, and despite the influences you can hear, it’s a very together piece despite the darkness.
Calvi’s work will not be to everyone’s taste, as the darkness and sometimes claustrophobic atmosphere makes it hard to see chinks of light, but there’s no denying that she is a brilliant prospect who can only grow with time and blossom into one of the great women of British rock.
Anna Calvi is out now on Domino Records. You can check out ‘The Devil’ below: