A Common Turn by Anna B Savage

Release date: January 29, 2021
Label: City Slang

It can be easily forgotten the pressure artists can put themselves under to create quality music. As this was the case with London based singer songwriter Anna B Savage who was met with acclaim after the release of her first E.P. that unfortunately become the trigger for a form of imposter syndrome, effecting her mental health and inflicted doubts about her own abilities to produce any more songs she thought were of an equal standard.

Thankfully, after lots of soul searching, therapy, and self-recovery she started writing again.  Seeing a post on producer William Doyle’s social media site asking for artists to experiment with him, she duly got in touch. The resulting debut album on City Slang Records is an incredibly bold, honest, absorbing, beautiful and, at times a strangely seductive challenging piece of work.

It has an alluring quality of intricately formed songs set around guitar pickings or strums, which transform into outwardly visions with the application of electronics. There are moments which recall Antony and the Johnsons tenderness, vulnerability, and strength, plus Jeff Buckley’s sweeping dramatic rise and fall textures and arrangements. But, Anna is no mere copyist, and possesses a transfixing broad vocal range; deeper registered tones reminiscent of Nadine Shah extend further by her ability to go operatic.

 

Lyrically, the use of acutely observed details (text messages, colour of hair, ablution routines etc), clips of conversation, and her childhood forming fascination with birds (Swallows, Terns, Corncrakes all feature) to symbolize Anna’s desire and essential need to break free, especially from a toxic relationship. It all makes A Common Turn an intriguing and mostly compelling listen with the ability to surprise, which helps you ease past the occasional less immediate moments.

The grippingly dramatic ‘A Common Tern’ reveals Anna’s need to escape the afore-mentioned toxic relationship after watching a tern fly away. The situation she is in is highlighted when she asks her partner what is it he loves the most about her, his reply ‘’I love how much you love me’, provokes the same reaction by this reviewer as Anna, ‘’I shuddered.’’ And her decision to escape from it is revealed with ‘’I take the hook out of my cheek and place it in his hand.’’ The song is matched brilliantly with unexpected twist and turns and is a stunning song of power……it’s so good it echoes Radiohead at their finest.

The guitar strum sets the scene for the excellent ‘Corncrakes’. A song which swoons in the vein of Laura Marling. The simple idea of adding tambourine is an indicator for a brisker tempo change as Anna croons repeatedly ‘’I don’t know if this is even real, I don’t feel things as keenly as I used to.’ ‘Dead Pursuits’ sees Anna display her vast vocal range to great effect. While ‘Two’, with its initial guitar plucked thrums, expands to a surprising electronica clanging and rhythmic groove, are all captivating.

There is a remarkable display of the quiet/loud formula in ‘Chelsea Hotel no 3’ as a provider for Anna’s exhilarating discovery. A name check/retort to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Chelsea Hotel no 2’, Anna honestly recounts the discovery of sexual self-pleasuring and her ‘’New year’s resolution to take care of myself.’’ One listen of this song and the LP, CD, pocket vibrator bundles make sense, which also shows excellent backing and support by City Slang on an artist’s debut album.

A Common Turn sees the arrival of a very intriguing artist who has made an incredibly brave, honest, beautiful, tender, and powerful debut. Yes, there are times a couple of songs that don’t quiet reach the album highlights, maybe the experimenting went a bit too far to hit home, but there is no doubt of its alluring qualities and stunning moments and songs. For fans of Antony and the Johnsons, Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen, Laura Marling, here is a new (ish) artist to check out. Anna asks ‘’Is anyone listening?’’ I truly hope so as this is an impressive debut and deserves to be heard.

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