Release date: 2013-10-07
Anna Calvi's début album back in 2011 showed her to be one of the most exciting new artists in the UK. That album was compelling, engrossing and had the symptomatic spark of an artist who knows exactly what sort of sound they're going for. Two and a half years later and Calvi's back with One Breath, an exhilaratingly captivating record, not one which flies out the blocks at breakneck speed, but one which will keep you coming back for more after one listen.
From the opening couple of tracks you get the sense that Calvi is almost like the David Lynch of modern music. The landscapes she creates are cinematic; there's a sense that the perfect colour scheme for this record is a deep and dark red. There's almost a feeling that the songs are operatic in their dramatized essence.
'Suddenly', hypnotic in it's repetition, opens the album. It sets the album up for what it is, all about feeling and being in the moment. The next track and leading single from the album, 'Eliza', is the sound of being passed out on the floor with a bottle of red wine which seeps through your rug, making a dark red pool of regret.
Anna Calvi's music makes you think like this; these songs flood your imagination like an imploding riverbank. If you're expecting a rip-roaring and vivacious rock or pop record then you'll be disappointed, but if you let this record take over you and let it breathe that one breath into you then it's easy to appreciate the beauty of this release. Take 'Sing to Me', where Calvi sings in part alone with the accompaniment of a bass guitar. It's gorgeously downplayed and subtle yet completely immersive and eloquently emotional.
This simplicity of the track makes for a real melancholic experience, but one which feels unique to Calvi and her style. Again it feels operatic, especially when the track moves into the its final third. It remains utterly engaging and climactic.
The title track shows Anna Calvi's haunting side. The song trundles along at an extremely slow pace. It's simple but effortless and perfectly acted out, with her vocals being just whispers. However, when the track feels like it's reaching a dark conclusion, the sound of the orchestra gleams out and you can feel the light at the end of the tunnel, the flower blossoming, and it's absolutely beautiful.
The whole album is one dark and gorgeous journey and tops Calvi's début album as it also feels a more coherent and complete work. If you listen to this album all the way through, you'll get to a point in the penultimate track, 'Bleed into Me', where you may even tear up because of how emotionally visceral the song is and how perfect Anna Calvi's voice is. It's one of the best albums of the year, but it's one which has to be engaged with properly.