Citing the likes of Debussy, Captain Beefheart, and Nina Simone as her main influences, it's clear from the outset that Anna Calvi isn't your average, run-of-the-mill singer/songwriter. She may have been tipped for success by everyone from the broadsheet music press to Brian Eno, but her blend of sultry blues-rock and dark, mysterious flamenco is a million miles away from the chart-friendly output of her fellow Sound of 2011 nominees. Her self-titled debut, therefore, is unlikely to reap the same commercial rewards as the likes of Jessie J and Clare Maguire, its uncompromising, gothic, David Lynch-esque nature certainly won't spawn any bite-size TV ad soundtracks or airplay favorites your mom can sing along to. But in a music scene dominated by female solo artists, Calvi's romantic but often sinister ten songs certainly helps her to stand out from the crowd. Opening track "Rider to the Sea," sets the scene immediately, a brooding instrumental whose atmospheric twanging guitars would provide the perfect score should Quentin Tarantino's much rumored Kill Bill 3 ever come to fruition. Calvi's haunting and intense vocals first come to the forefront on "No More Words," a gloriously menacing number which evokes the shimmering distorted harmonies of My Bloody Valentine. But it's on the grandiose "Desire" when Calvi really unleashes the impassioned post-punk tones that have drawn favorable comparisons with the likes of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey (whose regular collaborator, Rob Ellis, is also here on production duties). Backed by an impressively tight backing band, the likes of "Suzanne and I," a future James Bond theme in the making, "I'll Be Your Man," which would sit comfortably on Florence and the Machine's Lungs, and "Blackout," which evokes Phil Spector's expansive Wall of Sound, prove Calvi isn't averse to delivering slightly more accessible material. But it's the more unconventional "The Devil," which undoubtedly provides the album's highlight, a mesmerizing, stripped-down fusion of classical, rock, and flamenco that showcases her virtuoso guitar skills, and her effortless shifts from whispering restraint to primitive aggression before ending in layers of drenched feedback. By the time the epic strings have reverberated on closing track "Love Won't Be Leaving," you're left in no doubt as to why the industry appears to be so excited about her. Capturing the intensity and raw emotion of her captivating live shows, Anna Calvi is an ambitious and always intriguing debut which heralds the arrival of a unique and inventive addition to the plethora of U.K. female singer/songwriters.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien