The Art of Losing by The Anchoress

No, The Art of Losing is not a book. It’s a music album, and definitely my favourite album of 2021. In fact, it is the first new vinyl LP I have bought since the mid 1980s (I have bought CDs and second-hand LPs).

The Anchoress is Welsh singer/songwriter Catherine Anne Davies, someone I have been following on and off since 2005: I still have a CD in a hand-printed sleeve with the ribbon it was tied up with. In 2013 she contributed 2 songs to Radioland by The Dark Flowers, a project led by the likes of Jim Kerr of Simple Minds, an undiscovered jewel of an album.

Somehow I missed her first album as The Anchoress, but The Art of Losing is truly excellent. Indeed a number of newspapers and magazines list it among their albums of the year.

The album is a collection of lyrically and musically powerful songs on themes of grief and loss. The style ranges from the opening melodic piano and cello piece Moonrise, to indie rock with a pop sensibility of tracks such as The Art of Losing itself and a couple of harder-edged songs. Catherine has played and toured with the Manic Street Preachers, and James Dean Bradfield repays the compliment by appearing on this album. And, surprisingly to me, this album has picked up a good deal of support in prog rock circles.

This is also an album to listen to sitting down, as you read the lyrics. I remember the shock at realising that Suzanne Vega’s jolly pop song ‘Luka’ was about what we used to call a battered child. Well, I find it hard to comprehend the pain that went into writing 5am. The words are heart-wrenching. They say the darkest times come just before dawn, and those must have been really dark times.

As this is a book blog, I should also note that Davies is clearly very widely read. The back cover art is of a pile of books, each with the title of a track on its spine. And in the lyric sheet, each track is prefaced with a quotation from an author, writers as diverse as Attwood and Pessoa, Maupassant and Dostoevsky, Woolf and Dickinson.

This is a strong album, worth spending time to listen to all the way through, and without a single weak track. I love it.

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