Tipped in the BBC Sound of 2011 poll, we've been hearing about Anna Calvi for a couple of months now. Late last year, she released the single "Jezebel/Moulinette", giving us a small taste of what we might expect. 

And what we can expect is a lot of drama. Calvi has stated that she comes from a background of operatic and classical music, and that adds some color to her style, which can be described, perhaps, as "pop weirdness". 

On her new album, there are no songs which don't slip into this weirdness at some point. It's difficult to draw a reference point for her, because her way of doing things is an amalgam of many different influences. 

I'll try, though. Take Patti Smith, and trace a line through it backwards to the Shadows circa "Apache", then add in some healthy scrawls of Chris Isaak, Velvet Underground, and - more recently - Beach House and the xx. That's about as close as I'm going to get. 

However, the whole puzzle seems to fall together in odd ways, reminding me of nothing else than early Roxy Music. The basic structures of Calvi's songs are straightforward poppery, but there are enough bizarro details added to twist it into something not quite retro, not quite modern. It's like a whole album of "In Every Dream Home a Heartache". 

Opener "Rider To the Sea" is nearly instrumental, and consists of those Isaak-like guitar lines. Anna's voice enters subtly during the last minute or so, crooning wordless and ominous "oooohh"s. 

We really get started with "No More Words", and now her style of singing becomes evident. She's strong and full of drama, but not so much that it becomes a parody or even ever becomes unpalatable. She walks a thin line here, and in general on the rest of the album, but she manages to stay balanced for most of the time. 

Some highlights, then : 

"Suzanne and I", just like the earlier released "Jezebel", starts with a hard-hit drumbeat, and leads to an irresistable chorus. Along the way, there's a stop for the requisite weirdness : this time it's an atonal middle part that sounds like the soundtrack for "2001 : A Space Odyssey" when the apemen encounter the black monolith. 

This same effect turns up in "First We Kiss", this time working off an old Motown beat. It's a strange and mostly effective juxtaposition of sounds, and that's what Anna Calvi seems to be going for much of the time. 

"Blackout" sends us more into Pretenders territory, but again the oddness intrudes, this time with weirdly pulsing background vocals. The bluesy "I'll Be Your Man" follows, which is vaguely threatening. There are a lot of dynamics in this tune, as Anna segues back and forth between softer and louder parts. 

"Morning Light" uses an organic and effective bass line as its center, and here the backing vocals are whispered. The whole effect is dramatic again; Anna seems to thrive on this. Closing number "Love Won't Be Leaving" has some riffs in it, but the drama almost overwhelms it this time, in the form of frequently crashing (and unnecessary) cymbals. 

If there's one thing I would pick out to criticize about what Anna is doing, I would yell "Flush the cymbals!" at her. They tend to get in everywhere, and with the drama that she's already got going in the voice and guitar, they become intrusive after a while. 

Most critics have agreed that this record is "thinking out of the box" when it comes to pop music, and that's absolutely true. There's no one around right now that sounds remotely like Anna Calvi, and that's a point in her favor. 

I still can't recommend the album wholeheartedly to your average Britney/Kylie/Cheryl fan, though, because it might just be out of the comfort zone of those listeners. I can say that the album is worth a listen by those who want a few new twists in their popular music regimen.

That is, if you can get past the cymbals. 

I give Anna Calvi a 7 on the England Swings scale of 1-10 for her debut offering. 

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