Michelle Obama once said that to “dare to be vulnerable” is to break down barriers and show others who you really are. With Anna B Savage, this quote can be applied explicitly throughout her tenderly captivating and embracingly vulnerable debut album ‘A Common Turn’.
Savage first came to the fore with ‘EP’ in 2015 which led to a tour across Europe with Father John Misty. However, the unexpected success of this release had serious consequences for Savage as she struggled with feelings of imposter syndrome and at her lowest, questioned whether she could continue writing music any longer.
Over the last five years, Savage has built things up from the ground again to rekindle her passion for music and for herself. “I started to like myself again,” she explains in a press release, and ‘A Common Turn’ openly explores this vulnerable five-year period with authenticity and poise. The overarching theme of birds poetically binds her myriad of experiences together, revealing highs and lows, arduous journeys but also bright, joy enriching colours – just like birds.
‘Corncrakes’ channels Laura Marling style acoustic guitars with Savage’s melancholic lament on her experiences with self-doubt: “I don’t know if this is even real / I don’t feel things as keenly as I used to.” The most impressively produced track on the album ‘Dead Pursuits’ carries this theme of self-doubt to Savage’s own creative process as an artist. Dynamics are then utilised intuitively in ‘Baby Grand’ to convey a motif based around a relationship – its accompanying music video allows for an even more poignant experience.
Savage fuses her classical upbringing with electronic elements in the boldly experimental track ‘Two’ before ‘A Common Tern’ – which also boasts an impressive accompanying video – marks one of the most important moments of the album. It explores Savage escaping toxicity, both with her partner and the toxic relationship she’d built with herself, which coincides with a sighting of the titular common tern that offered a form of grace and freedom from her struggle.
Internal experiences with sexual pleasure are recounted in vivid detail in ‘Chelsea Hotel #3’. The album’s final two tracks ‘Hotel’ and ‘One’ allow William Doyle’s production inputs to come to the fore, rounding off proceedings with nods to Phoebe Bridgers and Anna Calvi.
This is a gem of an album. Personal, honest and highly emotive, it tackles big questions; but most of all, it dares to be vulnerable. ‘A Common Turn’ is undoubtedly one of the most notable releases of 2021 so far, marking a very impressive and well-earned return to music for Anna B Savage.
Words: Jamie Wilde
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