Divided opinions

Anna Calvi, the eponymous debut by one of this year’s “Sound of 2011” longlist nominees, starts vainly with that staple of the self-conscious art album, the instrumental. To her credit the guitars slide effortlessly from Spaghetti Western to flamenco via brief glimpses into the Orient with the track collapsing into a cascade of diminished chords. It’s a soundtrack to Dorothy’s whirlwind journey to Oz.

But the follow up ‘No More Words’ echoes half-baked French daze with Carla Bruni undertones, failing to live up to the delusion of other-worldliness of the first track. In fact, most of the album seems to parade itself as brilliantly new when in fact it’s just a dissolution of styles that drips into a mess of  lost riffs.
It’s the lack of real riffs that is the major flaw of this album. Regardless of the musical genre, the hook of a song is crucial and only ‘Desire’ and ‘Suzanne and I’ have one, both of which are actually wonderfully tender and accomplished. Ultimately Anna Calvi is so lost in experiment it far too often loses the plot. So that’s why I say that the “Sound of…” poll for this year remains only fairly accurate.
Two stars – Abbas Panjwani

Abbas delves into what makes (and breaks) Calvi’s album:

Not only has she been tipped by every newspaper as the hot sound of 2011, she has also been mentored by Brian Eno and supported artists such as Interpol and Grinderman. The opening single on the album, ‘Rider to the Sea’, amps up the anticipation even more evoking the opening credits to a Tarantino film. The excitement is amplified by the knowledge that the sublime guitar playing is all her own.

The arrangement is intriguing, with influences being listed like some Hall of Fame tombola. Her vocals are reminiscent of Edith Piaf and she looks like a punk secretary in Mad Men. Each song is unique and each arrangement is intelligent. However, after so much hype it was impossible that she could ever live up to such high expectations. Standout tracks such as ‘Blackout’ let the intricacy of the songs shine through, but you might have to make the extra effort to listen carefully, or the songs could just pass you by.
Four stars  – Fiona Evans