Anna Calvi strips down seven of her own songs on the new Hunted | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Anna Calvi strips down seven of her own songs on the new Hunted


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When British guitarist and vocalist Anna Calvi released her self-titled debut album in 2011, it felt like she’d emerged as a fully formed icon. Drawing from rock, punk, opera, and flamenco guitar, Calvi combined talent, eclecticism, and swagger in a way that had less in common with indie songwriters of her generation than with the likes of Annie Lennox, Prince, and Nick Cave. After putting out her third full-length, 2018’s Hunter, she wrote music for season five of Peaky Blinders, and insofar as that job asked her to delve into the mind of crime boss Tommy Shelby, it might’ve inspired her to look at her recent work with fresh eyes. On the new Hunted, Calvi has stripped down seven songs from Hunter, with help from guests such as Julia Holter and Courtney Barnett. Though some of the material on Hunter was fairly minimalist to begin with—on “Away,” Calvi’s voice floats over guitar strumming and a hushed backdrop of shimmering strings—on the new versions she does away with all window dressing to zero in on stark, raw emotion. On the updated “Eden,” a tale of hiding away with a lover during a rainstorm, Charlotte Gainsbourg’s whispers commingle with Calvi’s angelic croons to conjure an atmosphere even dreamier and more intimate than that of the original. But not every song is so rose-colored or escapist. Anchored by a driving guitar riff, the Hunter version of “Wish” feels powerful and determined, but the Hunted version (which features Idles vocalist Joe Talbot) pushes past the original’s bright, warm surfaces to something unhinged—it even gets a little maniacal when Calvi unleashes an operatic wail. That fierce mood continues through Hunted closer “Indies or Paradise” (the song appears midway through Hunter), where she mixes banshee cries with hushed incantations and trades the original’s chic grooves for blistering guitar rhythms. Making a great record is hard enough, but making one in two distinct and equally enjoyable versions is a humbling accomplishment.   v

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