Anna Calvi: Hunter – Audacious but uneven show of force
Anna Calvi has immaculate taste. Her style draws from such saintly sources as spaghetti western flicks, Eno art pop, 1960s beat music and James Bond themes, but viewed through the English woman’s distinct gothic lens. Plus, Calvi has a flair for dramatics, like she believes all her records will eventually end up on 35mm film.
Hunter, Calvi’s third album, is a set of audaciously huge compositions that shows the singer at her most expressive, but is let down in places by sloppy instrumentation and strange decision-making. Take Indies or Paradise, which features Calvi crooning over opulent orchestration but is underpinned by a stodgy percussion loop and further hampered by an overly repetitive hook. Or the title track, which feels influenced by the theatrics of opera and new wave ballads, but a lack of discernible structure sees it meander without sufficient sense of purpose.
The album’s successes, though, are striking. Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy is a sharply written number that advocates the destruction of suffocating gender roles. Swimming Pool is for the Bond movie that exists in Calvi’s head, while Chain is the album’s best pop song, built on a two-pronged guitar assault of grounded chords complemented by furious fret work. Hunter may be an inconsistent album, but in these moments, Calvi displays the various ripples of her undeniable talent.