This second album from Anna Calvi is a step forward from her first (amazing) album, and explores new themes, textures and sounds whilst at the same time keeping the intensity, darkness and nuance of the original.
The album kicks off with the impressive "Suddenly", which is a sweet and perfect opening number, with its pretty harmonies and thudding organ-based bassline. We then kick up a gear to the galloping opening single "Eliza". Things then take a departure from Anna's previous songs with "Piece by Piece". It starts with crackling of electronic plucking sounding like someone dragging a hairbrush across a plastic ruler before moving to a spare electronic beat with random squelching. "Cry" carries on with the electronic approach, aided by some gentle maraca, and sparse organ. Things march on impressively with the flawless "Sing To Me", which is possibly the most evocative and perfect song of this or any other year.
"Tristan" marks a return to the guitar, albeit one played aggressively with a drumstick, and things then immediately settle down for the Bowie-esque title track "One Breath". this songs build up nicely, and then breaks into a pastoral string interlude.
"Love of My Life" shows Anna at her most feral, and is unlike anything she has previously recorded, even in her former punk band Cheap Hotel. "Carry Me Over" oozes atmosphere, with some seriously eerie vibraphone, and "Bleed Into Me" features some great backing vocals, before the perfect album closer, "The Bridge", comes along replete with church-like choir.
Anyone expecting Anna Calvi 2 will be slightly disappointed. But then they deserve to be. Anna was never going to make an identical album. There is a danger that this more varied approach could lose cohesion and a narrative, and sound more like a collection of random songs rather than a discreet album, and although that was my initial view, a few listens in my attitude has changed. I think that the album does have a narrative. It certainly flows from one song to another, even if the journey is more "rollercoaster" than "morning commute".
In summary, I actually think this is an improvement over the first album, and has plenty to keep people listening to it time and time again.