WHAT do you get if you take the sensibilities of David Bowie, the sounds of PJ Harvey and subject matter that lands somewhere between Kate Bush and Taylor Swift? That would be The Anchoress’ debut album. Welsh-born, Aylesbury-based singer/songwriter/author Catherine Anne Davis aka The Anchoress’ pop rock debut comes with help from Paul Draper from Mansun, while the album itself takes on a journey like the romance novels it represents.
Confessions of a Romance Novelist takes the listener on a journey; if not a lyrical one, it’s certainly a musical one. The album opens with ‘Long Year’, a downbeat, gritty, angsty number that could have easily come from Rid of Me-era PJ Harvey. The same could easily be said for aspects of ‘P.S. Fuck You’, where Anchoress throws expletives around over music that sounds like a Kate Bush-ballad. On the other hand we have ‘What Goes Around’, which feels much more like a Baroque version of Marina and the Diamonds, and ‘Popular’ whose vocal gimmicks would not be out of place on Sgt. Pepper’s.
Meanwhile, Anchoress’ lyrics take on themes you’d expect judging from the title. There’s plenty of confession, a lot of curses and lots of emotional depth, so much so it borders on being pretentious. It’s tempting to see some of the lyrics (one example comes from the title track) that give off a very messy break up. Some slightly immature lyricism reminds one of earlier Taylor Swift, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Ballad-like, piano driven tracks like ‘Waiting to Breathe’ have a tendency to feel passionate and emotional, but ‘Chip on Your Shoulder’ contains a couple of moments that feel very foolhardy and out of place, especially considering the Anchoress’ impressive vocal abilities. And the album also feels relatively bloated at 13 tracks. ‘You and Only You’ and ‘One For Sorrow’ are somewhat empty tracks, and, let’s be honest, we didn’t need ‘Intermission (Letters to the Editor)’ despite the fact it gave us some pretty decent sound effects.
But once you get past the flaws in this album, it’s actually pretty enjoyable. The Anchoress’ voice is broad, sweeping and cinematic, with some songs equalling this. ‘Doesn’t Kill You’ is brilliant Bond-theme that never was, while ‘Popular’ and ‘Chip On Your Shoulder’ show that she can bypass genres excellently, even if the songs can be rather gimmicky and lacklustre in the lyrics. ‘Long Year’ and ‘P.S. Fuck You’ are smouldering and Lana Del Rey-esque while ‘Bury Me’ and ‘Rivers of Ice’ have a near-haunting atmosphere to them.
While this album isn’t mind blowing in its music and lyrics, it’s a sweet little number that comes through battered, bruised, but with a story to tell. Numbers such as ‘Long Year’, ‘Doesn’t Kill You’, ‘P.S. Fuck You’, ‘Rivers of Ice’ and ‘What Goes Around’ show the diversity of The Anchoress and how she is able to flip between styles at the drop of a hat. Development? She could do with it, but Confessions of a Romance Novelist is not a bad start for what will surely be a career to watch.
You can follow Andrew on Twitter.