It’s an incredibly enchanting thing when Anna Calvi strings us along. It’s breathtaking the way that she hushes us and the way that she makes us work for it, kill for it. She so very quickly and quietly takes us all under her spell and makes us see and hear only her. We’re locked into her every word, every expertly placed pluck, strum or squall.
We’re smitten and we’re intimidated. We’re unsure if she’ll let us out of this show or this record with all of our senses and limbs attached. We pat our pockets—all of them—to see what might be missing when she’s broken us from the bewitching. We know that she’s taking something from us when she’s singing to us, or singing at us. We can feel it. We just don’t know exactly what it might be and we’re left that way, kinda adrift and searching when she’s through.
She mesmerizes and stymies us like no one else that we can think of. The way that she portrays her innermost thoughts and yearnings is very intimate. It’s as if we’re voyeurs and we’re watching her slowly take her stockings off, as she’s singing out loud, supposedly to herself, calming herself, trying to talk herself down from whatever things she was dealing with all throughout the day and the night that’s just now coming to an end.
She gives us chills with the way that she builds these understated, almost silent cuts into her songs—especially “Love Won’t Be Leaving,” from her 2011 self-titled, debut full-length—leaving us to wonder and hear our own heart beat right down there, under our chin. She sings, “My desire is so strong/My desire is so strong/Sometimes I see faces/When I’m so alone,” and then she leaves us out in the dark and in the cold for what feels to us like quite some time. There are some sparse drums and there’s a shaker that’s just doing a little scratching over there in the corner. It keeps us fully alert and absolutely unsure about the outcome. Then she sends the panic in. Everything is a race against time from then on and the sweat in breaking out all over our body. We can’t catch our breath. We don’t feel the need to catch our breath. What’s the use anyway?
Calvi sings like some kind of kissing candlelight and we’re not really even sure what that means, but it’s what this feels like. She overpowers us with her heat and her delicious subtlety. It’s as if we’re driving recklessly on the iciest of roads and she’s watching us, forcing us to slow down and to be more careful. You can see, or hear, her profile in the light, flickering flame of that candle. We feel safe in her light.