Album reviews: Anna Calvi | Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen performs at the Rock in Rio Festival. Picture: Getty
Bruce Springsteen performs at the Rock in Rio Festival. Picture: Getty
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Anna Calvi was nominated for the Mercury Prize for her 2011 debut, and this follow-up continues a great run of albums from Domino Records in 2013.

Anna Calvi - One Breath

Domino, £13.99

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While it’s a very different offering from recent albums by Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys, it should scratch the 33-year-old Londoner’s name further into the public psyche as an artist of single-minded intent and uncompromising vision.

It’s an overused comparison where female artists with attitude are concerned, but it’s hard to see how any PJ Harvey fan would be disappointed with this album. Recorded in France and produced by John Congleton, whose list of credits for high-profile alternative musicians includes Amanda Palmer, Modest Mouse and Antony and the Johnsons, One Breath starts in deceptively alluring fashion. The delicate guitar chop and echoing, reverb-heavy croon of Suddenly is a vertiginous but largely hopeful leap into the unknown that comes crashing down around our ears at the end. Next is Eliza, a bittersweet, hero-worshipping torch song built around a thick bass pulse and Calvi’s stirringly soaring vocal. These are the songs that make the most immediate impact, although they’re just two of many highlights here.

Not everything is as unremitting; the discordant and repetitive Piece By Piece and the clanging, overdone Tristan, an apparent homage to Siouxsie and the Banshees, act as bookends to the measured, dusty grind of Cry and the understated Sing To Me. It’s in the second half of its running time, though, that the album becomes something really special. First, there’s the escalating unease of the title track, before Calvi wrongfoots the listener with a magical burst of old-style Hollywood musical orchestration, then the blistering grunge crunch of Love Of My Life, and finally The Bridge’s transcendent hymnal finale.

David Pollock

Download this: Eliza, One Breath

Bruce Springsteen: Tracks

Sony/Legacy, £29.99

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Originally released 15 years ago and out of print for the past five, Bruce Springsteen’s four-disc Tracks collection is further evidence of its creator’s prolific and high quality recorded legacy. For insatiable Springsteen fans, this 66-song collection of outtakes and B-sides will represent a great value alternative discography of their hero, from the sparse 1972 demos of Mary Queen Of Arkansas and It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City to a taut, haunting acoustic demo of Born In The USA and his rock ’n’ roll original cut of Pink Cadillac.


Download this: Pink Cadillac, Born In The USA

Miley Cyrus: Bangerz

RCA, £14.99

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There is a sense is that former Disney star Miley Cyrus blew her credibility with an oversexualised and woefully desperate-to-please performance at the MTV Video Awards last month. From this starting point, the high points of Cyrus’ first “adult” album sail close to restoring her reputation, from the souped-up crunch of SMS (Bangerz) – with assistance from fellow tabloid mainstay Britney Spears – to the arch impudence, considering who her dad is, of the Nelly-featuring country-bass collision 4x4 and the strong-voiced Broadway sweep of FU. Elsewhere, the generic pop dollar is hunted with vigour.


Download this: 4x4, FU


Stephane Grappelli Ensemble: NDR 60 Years Jazz Edition Series

Moosicus Records N13032, £14.99

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From 1953, the German broadcasting company NDR hosted a string of international jazz stars, recording them in studio sessions and concerts and building an archive of more than 2,000 recordings, which are starting to be released officially for the first time. This CD, the third in the series, features 20 tracks recorded by violin virtuoso Stephane Grappelli, with a rhythm section, in 1957 – during a period when he rarely recorded; something that the liner notes blame on his dissatisfaction with how the violin sounded in many recording settings, and also on the loss he felt when his friend and collaborator Django Reinhardt died in 1953. His playing is a joy throughout, but the ballads are the stand-outs.

Alison Kerr

Download this: A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing


Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag: 500 Sessions

Spreefix SPREE002, web only

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This second album from the Shetland band, formed in 2005, is a real delight. It’s a big sound, with bass, drums, guitar and keys underlying the thickly patterned seven fiddles. Mostly all-together, old-style traditional, with some self-penned, newly composed, Scots, Irish or Nordic-influenced tunes, this full-on group are now classed as the Islands’ top “spree” band – but have hardly made it down to the central belt. Live, they’re credited with creating a “high octane maelstrom”; this CD is vigorous, tight and palpably joyful.

Norman Chalmers

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Aaron Copland: Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes

Naxos 8.559758, £6.99

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Of Aaron Copland’s three Wild West ballet scores, only Appalachian Spring is seen on the dance stage with any regularity in the UK, although Billy The Kid and Rodeo remain popular in the US. Rodeo, commissioned by dancer/choreographer Agnes de Mille on the back of the 1938 success of Billy The Kid, and subtitled The Courting At Burnt Ranch, featured de Mille as the Cowgirl, a tomboyish character (based on her own childhood) who can’t get a man while trying to be one of the boys, but does so when she dresses in girls’ clothes and acts like one.

Of the five segments performed in the ballet, Copland selected four for this orchestral version, solidly and enjoyably performed by the Detroit Symphony under Leonard Slatkin. Three more dance pieces round out this highly enjoyable recording.

Alexander Bryce

Download this: Rodeo: Corral Nocturne