Music

Anna Calvi Re-writes Her Own History on 'Hunted'

Photo: Maisie Cousins / Courtesy of Grandstand Media

With the help of some celebrity friends, Anna Calvi tinkers with her past and creates an alternate version of her last album.

Hunted
Anna Calvi

Domino

6 March 2020

Anyone who went to art college will know the importance of a sketchbook. Those first exploratory marks on paper are about as raw as creativity gets, and they often possess an immediacy and spontaneity that the final, finished version lacks. The same is true of songwriting – that first surge of creativity, recorded quickly and often with little care for production values, can be a fascinating glimpse into the creative process. As the piece develops, it gets finessed, but that can mean that the quirks and idiosyncrasies that gave it an initial edge, get airbrushed out. On Hunted, Anna Calvi has gone back to the demo recordings made for her 2018 album Hunter and has reworked them, but this time with the input of Courtney Barnett, Joe Talbot (from Idles), Charlotte Gainsbourg and Julia Holter. Calvi had spotted characteristics in those raw recordings which she wanted to bring to the forefront, but this approach seems to result in her making the same album twice.

On Hunted, Calvi plays her best card early. The opening track, "Swimming Pool" is gorgeous. Over a simple, but beautifully played guitar figure, Calvi, joined on this song by Julia Holter, creates an almost new-age soundscape, which holds your attention from the first note to the last. Calvi and Holter's voices mesh perfectly together, and there is a raw starkness to the song, which is incredibly compelling. It sets the bar very high for the rest of the record. "Hunter" is one the tracks on this album which features Calvi, alone. A backdrop of synths and guitar, emphasize the darkness of the lyric, while her heavy breathing, used as a rhythm track adds to the unsettling mood of the piece.

From here on in, it's diminishing returns, unfortunately. The guest vocalists come and go, but their performances seem almost grafted on to the recordings for no real reason. Aside from Holter's ethereal contribution to the opening track, no one else has brought their "A" game. Charlotte Gainsbourg's contribution to "Eden" does very little to enhance the song, the same of which could be said for Joe Talbot's vocal on "Wish". Courtney Barnett fares better on "Don't Beat the Girl out of My Boy", and her distinctive vocal adds an audible sneer to the piece. It helps that that song was a standout track on Hunter, and compared to some of the other work on this record, it's almost a conventional pop structure.

Why has Calvi chosen this rather eccentric approach for her new album? Possibly, she's feeling the pressure of following Hunter and has put this out as a placeholder. Were the guest vocalists brought in to entice people to pick up Hunted, who possibly wouldn't have bought it if it had just been a collection of her demos? I genuinely think not, but for the most part, those cameos add little or nothing to the pieces and take away from the raw immediacy of the recordings that to which they have been added. This record falls between being a snapshot of a work in progress and a fully-fledged recording and as such, is curiously unsatisfying. A "warts and all" approach really should have been the way to go. "Indies or Paradise", the last track on Hunted, is all Calvi, her voice soaring as she brutally attacks her guitar, invoking PJ Harvey at the peak of her powers. More of this, please.

Hunted occupies a strange place in her catalogue, being neither an audio-verité release or a fully-fledged, star-studded duets album. It's quite interesting, but that's all. Now, with this out of her system, she can move on.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Film

Alastair Sim: A Very English Character Actor Genius

Alastair Sim belongs to those character actors sometimes accused of "hamming it up" because they work at such a high level of internal and external technique that they can't help standing out.

Music

Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers Head "Underwater" in New Video (premiere)

Celebrating the first anniversary of Paper Castle, folksy poppers Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers release an uplifting new video for opening track, "Underwater".

Music

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's New LP Is Lacking in Songcraft but Rich in Texture

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Mosaic of Transformation is a slightly uneven listen. It generally transcends the tropes of its genre, but occasionally substitutes substance for style.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1996 Album 'All Set' Sees the Veteran Band Stretching Out and Gaining Confidence

After the straightforward and workmanlike Trade Test Transmissions, Buzzcocks continued to hone their fresh identity in the studio, as exhibited on the All Set reissue contained on the new box-set Sell You Everything.

Books

Patrick Madden's 'Disparates' Makes Sense in These Crazy Times

There's no social distancing with Patrick Madden's hilarious Disparates. While reading these essays, you'll feel like he's in the room with you.

Music

Perfume Genius Purges Himself and It's Contagious

You need to care so much about your art to pack this much meaning into not only the words, but the tones that adorn and deliver them. Perfume Genius cares so much it hurts on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.

Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump White House -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.