Confessional singer-songwriters face a quandary of how much to reveal, whether to go down the misery memoir route or strive too hard to convey a positive message. With ‘in/FLUX’, Anna B Savage gives herself an examination that sounds like the best ever episode of the old Radio 4 series ‘In the Psychiatrist’s Chair’ while accepts duality and avoiding the superficiality of the perfect lives portrayed in social media.

Savage captured attention with her debut album, 2021’s ‘A Common Turn’, due to her extraordinarily rich voice and frank sentiments. While it felt bracing and cleansing like a cold shower, it has been a record that I have not revisited as regularly as expected and seems monochrome in comparison to ‘in/FLUX’. This time she has worked with Mike Lindsay (Tunng and Lump) whose production unveils a kaleidoscopic array of colours and gives breathing space to proceedings, creating an accompaniment that compliments but does not overshadow the emotions.  

This is illustrated on opening track ‘The Ghost’ which emerges from electronic growls and Savage recalling brushing teeth together with an old partner, it evolves into fears of calling their name to a new lover, and a chorus in her impassioned voice, “stop haunting me please / just leave me be” accompanied by brass stabs amidst ascending melodrama.

Starting with avian sounds and acoustic guitar, the movement of her fingers along the frets audible, ‘I Can Hear the Birds Now’ sees her trying to pick the perfect postcard which seems too poignant to send, the hum of an oboe melody gliding along and adding to the sense of resigned acceptance.

Throughout ‘in/FLUX’, the lyrics convey the sense of intimate diaries. Often, she is found flipping back into dependence. ‘Pavlov’s Dog’ recounts times in an unhealthily dependent headspace, finding her “waiting, salivating” to a blend of electronics. canine panting and a hint of steel drums. As uneasy electronics quickly give way to a smooth melody, ‘Crown Shyness’ has Savage examining conflicting emotions (“… is this just a friend thing or some kind of ending? It doesn’t feel sustainable / this endless push and endless pull / you’re in my dreams an awful lot at the moment”).

Starting with hushed vocal, strummed guitar chords that echo ‘Space Oddity’ and subdued sax, ‘Say My Name’ finds her on the A1 Southbound (“can you hear my sadness… I crack a window / the wind rips my voice away”), the instrumentation becomes more freeform as the drama builds.

The title track would be extraordinary for its raw sentiments (“said he was angry / said he would find someone who wouldn’t lead him on…. I’ve dreamt of him every night / we’re always in some fight…. I want to be alone / I’m happy on my own / please believe me”), let alone its vocal gymnastics, laughter and delirious beats pattern. It is a theme she started to explore on ‘Since We Broke Up’ from the ‘These Dreams’ EP, rejecting the incredulous response to the idea of a woman being fulfilled and not requiring the validation of a relationship. 

The mood varies between tracks, reflecting day-to-day experience. Whereas calm acceptance lingers over ‘Hungry’ with its strummed guitars, understated beats and beguiling wind melody (“I thought I’d feel lonely but that’s not true…. I’m hungry for more time with you”), ‘Feet of Clay’ has her “scared of being trapped” and “reading all about attachments” over an enticing keyboard loop. To delicately picked guitar, keys and beats, ‘Touch Me’ has Savage pursuing the tingle of desire (“I’d forgotten what it felt like to want someone… this is the best bit, isn’t it / I relish the ache, wanting something”).

Closing track, ‘The Orange’ sees a return to sentiments marking her as the Greta Garbo of singer-songwriters “don’t want kids or a partner / right now that’s the god’s honest truth but no-one believes me”, reflecting “I think Wendy Cope would agree / it’s a small miracle to finally enjoy being me”, the serenity reflected with gentle bursts of whistling in the lovely musical accompaniment from guitar, keys and horns. As a mantra, if this is all that there is / I think I’m going to be fine” is a wonderfully reassuring way to leave the listener and a sublime conclusion to an album of rare lyrical and musical depth.

Anna B Savage: in/FLUX – Out 17th February 2023 (City Slang)

I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.