Review Summary: A solid effort from an up-and-coming pop virtuoso
Given her relatively recent debut on the music scene, British singer-songwriter Anna Calvi has quite the impressive resume, including a BA in music from Southampton University, two Mercury Prize-nominated solo albums, a collaborative EP with David Byrne, and endorsements from such musical titans as Brian Eno and Nick Cave. It’s understandable why so many have embraced Calvi’s work so quickly: Her powerful, operatic voice makes her a singular presence in modern music, and her penchant for genre-defying, larger-than-life songcraft lends her music a kind of auteuristic authenticity many of her contemporaries lack.
Calvi’s third album, Hunter
, is a somewhat sleeker, more pop-minded affair than her first two. Not that it doesn’t retain much of what makes her such a unique presence as both a writer and performer; songs like “Indies or Paradise” and “Chain” are hardly the sort of thing you’ll stumble across in the Billboard Hot 100. Still, the guitar tones are a bit smoother, the drumming a bit less aggressive, and the melodies a bit more traditionally appealing.
opens with an incredibly strong run of tracks- Opener “As A Man” rides an effortlessly cool descending vocal motif through a head-bobbing groove. The title track builds subtle, delicate tension in its verses before blooming into a majestic chorus that calls to mind Berlin-era David Bowie. And “Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy” simply swaggers, thanks to stellar drum production and guitars with just the right amount of crunch to them.
Beyond those first three tracks, however, Calvi seems to stumble a bit. The expansive chorus of “Indies or Paradise” is hindered by underwhelming, spoke-sung verses, “Alpha” feels sloppily paced and sticks too closely to its nocturnal rhythm for a truly rewarding payoff, and the final three tracks are practically hookless, as if they’re trying to slide by without notice (though closer “Eden” does features some tastefully deployed violin accents). Still, “Swimming Pool” is a great, sensual slow-burn with appropriately aquatic-sounding production, and “Chain” is nicely bombastic, keeping the last leg of the album from running out of steam entirely.
All told, Hunter
is, if anything, yet another testament to Anna Calvi’s potential, showing her to be capable of creating some genuinely captivating music, art-pop that feels like “art” and “pop” in near-equal measures. Hell, even the less successful tracks here don’t really engender a sense of frustration. After all, that someone with Calvi’s clout is so willing to experiment and push at the boundaries of what pop music can be is something to be thankful for- even if not all of her experiments go off without a hitch.