Debuts are daunting. There are countless factors to consider when introducing oneself, including, crucially, how much of your identity (and inherent flaws) you’re willing to reveal to a faceless audience. In such circumstances, adopting a persona seems like an attractive defence mechanism to protect one’s ego. With A Common Turn, however, London-based singer-songwriter Anna B Savage leaves little to the imagination, with detailed insights into her insecurities and informative experiences which preceded this milestone. By the time we reach the album’s closing notes, Savage establishes herself as an engaging, endearing individual – someone you’d like to befriend.
Her deft lyricism, propelled by dexterous arrangements, which shift between sweetly plucked acoustic melodies and infectious industrial beats, shines across these ten tracks. Grounding these otherworldly compositions are universal themes spurred by heartbreak (“I wanted to text you but it would mean I thought about you”) and battles with self-confidence. Furthermore, her aptitude for storytelling is strengthened by marrying humour with nostalgia. Shuffling between Leonard Cohen and The Spice Girls, conjuring the image of a lingerie-clad Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and paying homage to a ceramic owl mug crafted by Edwyn Collins, her cultural touchstones are far-reaching. Such eclecticism trickles into her equally varied, alluring soundscapes.
A Common Turn is packed with rewarding melodic transformations. ‘Two’ and ‘BedStuy’ are fine examples of the artistry at play. Amplified by Savage’s exceptional vocals (her parents are classical singers), her distinct timbre bearing a likeness to both Anohni and early recordings by Angel Olsen, it’s easy to find yourself completely enveloped by the breadth of the intricately textured instrumentation. In this regard, Savage – aided by William Doyle, who assisted with the album’s production – provides an exhilarating listening experience.
It’s unfathomable that such a singular artist should doubt herself on this accomplished debut, but by making her vulnerabilities visible, she breaks down the barrier between artist and audience. Despite the ambitious sonic twists and turns – a driving force in the record’s foundation – it’s the impenetrable air of solitude in her performances which are most effective in captivating the listener. This is most keenly felt on ‘Baby Grand’ when she cups her mouth as though revealing a secret before the arrangement erupts.
Thoroughly modern in its make-up, A Common Turn is simultaneously reflective and rambunctious. Anna B Savage has made an outstanding first impression.