Anna Calvi burst onto the scene in 2011. All powerful and sensual, wielding her guitar authoritatively with her voice booming operatically, she strutted on stage. She has a music degree behind her (which helps to claw some of the hipsters over the fence) and a wicked guitar-playing style. Acclaim came promptly: securing an EBBA award, Mercury Prize and Brit award nominations followed, along with a BBC Sound Of 2011 nod. It is tough for an artist who comes from such hype to woo and wow their way back into people’s hearts. That she did though with her second album One Breath, which was rewarded with similar chart positions and another Mercury Prize nomination. 2018 now sees the release of her third studio album Hunter and it is starting to become clear that she is capable of churning out the goods.
The album opens with As a Man. The opening line, “If I was a man and opened my body, oh would I now understand you completely,” is sung over a subtle groove that is rudely interrupted by passionate rhythmic drum fills. You sense a pattern throughout the album with tracks like Hunter, Don’t Beat the Girl out of My Boy and Alpha. With no vivid political or social message as such, we hear an artist’s experience with dominant masculine ideals and gender roles. The artist’s persona that we hear on this album mostly is that of a sensual, theatrical rock star, but in the song Away we finally get to hear a more fragile Calvi.
Calvi is an artist and a performer, but the moments where she shows us that she is a human seem to etch deeper into your being than any crotch thrusting solo could. That is not to speak ill of guitar solos; Calvi colours the album beautifully with melody and personality at every solo break. The impressive disjointed roar you hear in Alpha is worth noting.
Hunter is far from a new sound for Calvi. It seems unlikely that this third studio album will gain her any new fans, but it will definitely not let down any current fans either. The album consists of boisterous vocal performances and gritty guitar solos, with the odd sweet groove and the flicker of charming human fragility thrown in as well.