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The Anchoress

The Art of Losing

Kscope

Mar 19, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Grief is obviously something we will all experience at some point in our lives, but singer/songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist The Anchoress (aka Catherine Anne Davies) has had more than her (un)fair share of loss and trauma over recent years. Her second album, The Art of Losing, was not the album she’d originally set out to write and came in the aftermath of the untimely death of her father, followed by experiencing repeated baby loss, as well as undergoing treatment for cervical cancer. Which is more than enough heartache for anybody to endure and certainly not what a young woman might expect to be faced with at this stage of her life. But Davies has inner steel and—having previously collaborated with the likes of Bernard Butler, Manic Street Preachers, and Simple Minds—she took complete artistic control of her work. The Art of Losing was written and produced in its entirety by Davies (as well as playing 80% of the instruments on it) and she channelled the grief and trauma into her work to produce a profoundly moving, eloquent, and powerful album. Had she not suffered such loss, she still very likely would have produced a stunning record, it kind of goes with the territory. Just not this record.

The pain is palpable throughout but the honesty and emotional intelligence when addressing subjects that were once considered taboo in pop music such as bereavement, sexual assault, and miscarriages, as well as Davies’ skill as a songwriter and producer, ensures this album moves and inspires rather than being a “difficult listen” due to its subject matter.

The title track is inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s Poem One Art—containing the line “the art of losing isn’t hard to master,” wherein Bishop details small losses which increase in size and therefore significance as she meditates on the universal experience of grief and longing whilst trying to make sense of it. Davies has trod a similar path.

“Show Your Face” addresses toxic masculinity, the entitlement of powerful men who act with impunity and the difficulty faced when holding them to account. Although originally written during the early days of the #MeToo movement, it resonates even more powerfully today given the growing #ReclaimTheseStreets marches in London. And sadly it will continue to resonate until men stop abusing, assaulting and murdering women. “The Exchange” (which features Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield) is seemingly about manipulation and swells into a soaring chorus. Whilst the stunning “Unravel” laments lost love, personal identity, and navigating the journey from being a couple to learning to live with yourself again. “5AM” is perhaps the album’s most haunting and poignant moment, Davies’ rich voice sounding strong yet exhausted as she reflects on child loss, domestic abuse, and sexual assault. The devastating refrain “red, red blood is dripping on the carpet” ties the three situations together and despite the minimalist nature of the track it packs a huge emotional punch.

“So what did you learn, that life is unkind? Was there some purpose, to losing my mind?” sings Davies on the title track, questioning her suffering and wondering if she can wrench some sort of meaning from it before ultimately rejecting that idea. Great suffering equating to great art is something of a myth, but The Art of Losing demonstrates that in the bleakest of times, the light can still shine and there’s a shared universality in loss that can help us all connect with each other, our empathy, and our humanity. It’s Davies’ finest work to date and a testament to her strength and artistic vision. (www.theanchoress.co.uk)

Author rating: 8/10

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