Making art is a bold thing, a statement. Usually a full stop, sometimes an exclamation point. But it’s bolder still when it’s a question mark. London singer-songwriter Anna B Savage makes question mark music. Her songs are heavy with unanswered queries, with dilemmas and insecurities, or often just with wondering. And she lets them out anyway. The miracle of Savage’s work is exactly this balancing act – her subject matter is inherently inchoate, but it’s presented in a nest of fully-formed and room-filling artistry.
Following her critically-acclaimed 2015 EP, Anna B Savage’s debut full-length, A Common Turn, came out in January 2021 on City Slang to widespread critical acclaim.
Savage wrote music for her debut album, stitching together influences and references ‘One month I printed out all the lyrics, blu-tacked them to my wall, and drew lines between each corresponding idea. Making sure I’d lyrically covered all the themes I wanted to, linking ideas, deleting repeats, and making me look like a literary serial killer’. The album is littered with personal and cultural references (Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Spice Girls, female pleasure, mental health, and a ceramic owl mug by Scottish alt-rock legend Edwyn Collins, among others), all of which are now sewn into her music like talismans.
Savage got in touch with William Doyle, (FKA East India Youth – 2014 Mercury Prize nominee) having seen his social media post asking artists to contact him if they wanted to experiment together. From their first meeting, William provided ambitious yet elegant production to the demos Anna brought him, and ultimately gave a definitive shape to the record she had at one point deemed officially impossible to finish. Theirs is a blending of earth and industry, of human feeling and mechanized deconstruction of expectations and barriers. As a pair, they were able to make a record that is, in Savage’s words, ‘about learning, adapting, growing, being earnest and trying really f***ing hard.’
Savage’s music is deeply vulnerable, without being submissive. The subject matter could weigh these songs down, but instead they soar as she lays claim to her own fragility. There’s an intoxicating catharsis woven through the album and the stories she tells are of taking up space, finding connections, and owning the power in not knowing all the answers. Hers are songs for anyone who thinks hard, feels deeply, and asks big questions.
Co-presented by Bird On The Wire