Tuesday, August 9, 2011


@nna C@lvi- S/T (2011) MP3 & FLAC


"Hold me down, and hold me close tonight."

Every once in a while, a truly distinct independent artist becomes subject to the hype machine that the music press usually reserves for the pablum that emanates from the major labels. While this can be a blessing for an indie artist in terms of exposure, it can also become a curse in the sense that the hype is often comprised of reductive comparisons to other artists and/or ill-fitting identifications with specific genres. In fact, if there is anything that distinguishes much of the music journalism and music promotion of the last decade or so from that of earlier eras, it is the widespread need to over-define and micro-categorize both artist and artwork alike. Anna Calvi is an apt example of this phenomenon, with soundbites from the likes of icons such as Brian Eno claiming Calvi to be "the best thing since Patti Smith" preceding her like a calling card or a scarlet letter, depending on one's tolerance for hype-induced adjectives and predicates. To be honest, I'm usually instantly turned off by such things, but on rare occasion, there is something about an artist's work that speaks through all the hype and over-exposure, in effect, demanding to be heard on its own terms. Anna Calvi's eponymous debut album speaks in this way loudly and eloquently. Co-produced with Rob Ellis, otherwise known as the drummer for P.J. Harvey, another artist whom the music press is eager to compare Calvi to, Anna Calvi is a lush, Goth-tinged set of torch songs that tap into the same romanticized backwoods-blues template that has been so good to Nick Cave over the years, but with some intriguing sonic wrinkles, such as Calvi's guitarwork, sounding a bit like Django Reinhardt-meets-Tom Verlaine as refracted through a David Lynch film. The album's lead track, "Rider to the Sea," is both a fine tribute to the kind of moody guitar-based soundscapes that Verlaine perfected on Warm and Cool and a clear indicator of Calvi's considerable artistic boldness, as it isn't everyday a debut album begins with what is, for the most part, an instrumental. Calvi's sultry vocals make their first real appearance on "No More Words," perhaps the most understated song on Anna Calvi and arguably the strongest. Here, Calvi creates a sixties pop vibe complete with soft, almost whispered vocals, which belies the song's dark, desolate heart. Another brilliant song is "The Devil," a haunting, soul-searching ballad that reaches for the same type of dust-blown twang as Paula Frazer's early work in Tarnation and features some lovely flamenco-influenced guitar work by Calvi. All hype aside, Calvi's debut is the kind of album to get lost in, lovingly constructed, impeccably recorded, and featuring some of the most vibrantly assured Goth-pop you're likely to hear.

Anna Calvi  
(Domino ~ 2011)

Tracklist-
 1. Rider to the Sea  (2:40)
 2. No More Words  (3:51)
 3. Desire  (3:51)
 4. Suzanne & I  (4:11)
 5. First We Kiss  (3:06)
 6. The Devil  (4:35)
 7. Blackout  (4:06)
 8. I'll Be Your Man  (3:10)
 9. Morning Light  (4:14)
10. Love Won't Be Leaving  (5:37)



10 comments:

  1. Wow I think this review is your best so far. I really don't remember reading "refracted" in an music review ever. Thank you for the post and I look forward to listening to this.

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  2. Django meets Verlaine! Must download now. Way to keep a finger on the pulse of new music. Not the biggest fan of dream pop but when it is done right it is enjoyable. We always wanted to make a punk t-shirt saying mtv is my source for new music but they wanted too many shirts made for a minimum.

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  3. Thanks!! Great discovery ...

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  4. scurfie, thanks. Actually, I wasn't very happy with this review when I wrote it, but your feedback makes me feel better about it

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  5. JoJo, I hope you like it. I remember that you're a Djano fan. It's a subtle influence but it makes some of the songs pretty distinctive. Great to have you back as a commenter. Please let me know if you want me to add your blog to the blogroll here. Love the new look over there!

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  6. I've had a chance to listen to it and she is an excellent guitarist. Glad there is some new music out there that is not dreck. Do some roadie/tech work for a neighbor that has played guitar for 40years, might turn him on to it. Thanks for the comments about the blog. If you want to add that is up to you. I made it so I could download files to the laptop because the optical drive went out, hehe, one good thing about an unknown blog is that you can post almost anything. Now to figure out how to get the background image to cascade in template designer, muahaha!

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  7. JoJo, that's what struck me about Calvi, the guitar playing. I hope she doesn't get sucked into the major label vortex. What kind of music does your neighbor play? Since it sounds like you want your blog to remain a little anonymous right now, I'll hold off, but if you ever want me to add it to the blogroll, just let me know, I'd be happy to. I've been thinking of bringing back the chat box despite all the spammers that come with it. If I do, feel free to post links there if you like. I have a feeling you'll like the next post (although you might already have it). I'm too tired to finish it tonight, but should have it up tomorrow afternoon, talk to you soon.

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  8. Ol' guys plays the blues and some 90s alternative rock like Toadies, Weezer etc.. We stand back when he breaks out the old Martin acoustic. I never listened to the blues that much until I met him. A Stratocaster master he might have been a rock legend if he hadn't went with education, family, career. Another hot shot female guitarists is Orianthi, an Austrailian guitar mercernary who is easy on the eyes as well. :o)

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  9. JoJo, do you have any Orianthi you could post on your blog?

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