Strange Weather (ep)
Domino Recording Co.
I continue to warm to Anna Calvi’s sound. I don’t want to say anything condescending like she’s improving with each release but I loved recent full lengther, One Breath – and this covers EP (that classic stopgap) does build somewhat; bending songs to Calvi’s approach crucially, rather than her bending down to fit the song. And it’s a great selection of covers too – on the opening rendition of FKA Twigs’ Papi Pacify Calvi not only finds a place for her guitars, in place of the original’s synths, she also shows off – again – what a stunning voice she has. Not only that, I was left thinking that this Lana Del Rey thing can be done, and done well – Calvi’s version of Papi Pacify has something in it that touches on that gothic upgrade of 50s reverb-soaked pop trope, without the desperation to be sold off as pop-fodder. And same too for her remake of Connan Mockasin’s I’m The Man That Will Find You – and by earnestly appropriating the lyrics she manages to remove the creepy stalker vibe of the original And of course there’s none of that about-to-burst-into-laughter performance-art/mocking/mincing delivery that Connan inimitably demonstrates. That means the song works in both contexts – she’s taken it away from the silliness, made it into something more real but you’re free to go back to it how it was meant to be too.
Suicide’s Ghost Rider is less exciting, more a re-tread – good song, good choice, but nothing special happening here. Might put people onto the original, shows something outside and away from “obvious” influences, but it’s the EP’s weakest moment.
Keren Ann’s Strange Weather is absolutely the highlight – as you’d hope, given it’s the title song. David Byrne’s guest vocal is inspired. It was, apparently, his suggestion to cover this song. And it works better than Byrne’s “acting” version of himself when paired with St. Vincent. It also shows that Calvi deserves kudos for her talents as vocalist – she’s a great instrumentalist and musical arranger but she’s most certainly a wonderful singer. And nice to be able to hear that in and around and through any of the noise.
A cover of Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul as torch-ballad is the perfect closer for this small but perfect tease. She isn’t about to win everyone over and get flavour-of-the-month notices. That of course is what appeals most about Calvi and what she’s doing and how she’s doing it.