Anna Calvi and We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves by John Maus review

by Jim Pinckney / 20 August, 2011
With more new music, worthwhile reissues and unearthed gems than ever before, it’s rare to be able to let albums grow on you over a period of months. Fortunately, in the case of the eponymous debut from ANNA CALVI (Domino/EMI), perseverance paid off with an album that initially failed to make a huge impression. Opening with unaccompanied flamenco electric guitar and moving through well-worked styles that suggest everything from a female Nick Cave to a touch of the Shirley Basseys and plenty more besides, the classically trained 28-year-old singer-songwriter, who plays most of the instruments herself, has secured a Mercury Prize nomination and should end up in the year’s “Best of” lists.

WE MUST BECOME THE PITILESS CENSORS OF OURSELVES (Upset the Rhythm/Rhythm Method), album number three from John Maus, finds the Ariel Pink and Panda Bear collaborator taking further strides with his lo-fi chants. It doesn’t have a standalone gem like Do Your Best from previous album Love is Real, but the combination of malignant John Carpenter-esque 80s synths and vocals that are a budget-version of the Sisters of Mercy’s Andrew Eldritch is worked to perfection. That Maus manages to balance his almost absurd simplistic new-wavey compositions with studying for a PhD in political ­philosophy at the University of Hawaii makes it all the more intriguing.
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