It’s rightly impossible to get through any bit of press about Anna Calvi without mentioning that Brian Eno recommended her to Nick Cave over dinner, so I’ll get it out of the way first. I wouldn’t necessarily have pegged Eno for a fan, but for Cave it makes sense; Calvi makes classicist, classy soundtrack pop, in thrall to the American southwest, vaguely nostalgic of no era in particular without losing any contemporaneity.
Her dynamic voice—reminiscent, at turns, of Allison Goldfrapp, Siouxsie, and Roy Orbison—is a thrill of the sort rarely experienced lately, but just to make sure you notice how all-around amazing she is, first she introduces her tastefully virtuosic guitar work on the desertscaping instrumental opener “Rider To The Sea.”
Even the John Barry meets Lee Hazlewood scoot of “No More Words” finds her in a sultry, subdued mode, so when she shows her full power on “Desire,” and for the following three songs, the result is startling. And if, from there, the rest of the record drags, it’s not for lack of quality—especially the Cave-a-like “I’ll Be Your Man”—but perhaps a sort of overexposure, a shock of the new that numbs the senses. It’s a numb I could get comfortable with.