by Joseph Purcell
The search for answers is what makes Anna B. Savage’s debut so utterly compelling
Refusing to be held back by internal strifes, A Common Turn is a bold declaration – one in which Savage rejects the notion of the definitive conclusion, and, instead, adeptly picks her way through tracks that lay bare her struggles. She questions – navigating the recurring themes of her existence – namely her sexuality, her relationships and her self-doubt. On the early bleakness of Two, she states, ‘I will never amount to everything,’ which is in contrast with the snap of metronomic explosions and enthralling industrial dance, as it develops; the song bursting from a seemingly terminal malaise where it didn’t feel possible.
This rubs up against the vulnerability of Baby Grand – a charming shift, musically if not lyrically, as, again, it presents Savage’s passion through the turmoil of love. Looking upon a previous lover who she has recently reconnected with, experiencing past emotions of joy shared in that person’s company, and then striving to understand if they feel the same way is cathartic. This inner turmoil stalks this debut collection, but always in the most eloquent of ways.
Corncrakes has a broody air of desperation, and feels like a triumph. Similar to that of Keeley Forsyth, Savage’s voice quickly holds centre stage; it is majestic yet uncomfortably captivating. ‘I don’t know if this is even real, I don’t feel things as keenly as I used to.’ The track elevates as the acoustic guitar and backing vocals re-appear, as she quickens in her delivery; the anxiety of Savage’s words are now replicated by the metaphorical tempo change, as if the songwriter is gasping for air. As it builds to the crescendo, Savage, rueful and exhausted, is left reflecting on her own reality.
The internal monologue continues, as she battles her thoughts and questions the point of her creations. This is evident on the raging colossus of Dead Pursuits. ‘Somebody help me in my dead pursuits,’ she cries, searching for the presence of comfort, before exuding, ‘pretend I’m ok, but I’m choking!’ And as she continues to fight back the darkness, the backing lightens and her vocal begins to float with an air of serenity, before she crashes once more into the wracking melange of self-doubt and inadequacy – ‘I didn’t ace that interview / I didn’t even apply / there’s no use.’
Willing to present herself stripped of the human masks that we all refine to protect us, A Common Turn sees Savage naked. A brave, breathtaking debut.
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