REVIEW: Anna B Savage – These Dreams EP

After releasing what is probably the best album of 2021 back in January, you might think that Anna B Savage would take some time to rest on her laurels. But it seems unlikely that that will be this exciting new artist’s way. On the title track and opening song of this four track EP, Anna shows that sticking to the tried and tested formulas that made A Common Turn so successful is simply not an option for her, as a crunching guitar and wailing vocal make this the most dramatic and operatic attempt of her career so far. There are echoes of Bjork in her delivery here. Over an epic build Anna narrates a tale of a thousand iterations of herself showing up in her sleep and listing her deficits and delusions, every insecurity she battles with in the waking hours coming to look her in the eyes as she snoozes. And in this we see the real through line from the album to the EP; Anna is still going to be brutally honest, putting all her thoughts and demons centre stage for us to relate to.

This forthright nature doesn’t dim as we move on to ‘Since We Broke Up’. But for once, Anna isn’t being hilariously self-deprecating and spending the majority of her time looking inwards. This is a refreshing account of a relationship ending and not leaving the person singing about it feeling broken but, instead, ‘getting along by themselves’, ‘reading more than ever before’ and ‘swimming in the ladies pond.’ It’s a glorious celebration of self-efficiency and the power of escaping a relationship that doesn’t give you what you need. To go along with that sense of celebration it also has one of the jauntiest and most enjoyable choruses I have heard this year – another sign that Anna is going to continue to do new things when they feel right for the songs. She’s not usually a chorus person, but if all her choruses are this good maybe she should do them all the time. Who knows?

EPs such as this one often throw in a cover song that feels unnecessary and distracting. So when I saw the title ‘A Girl Like You’ on the tracklist, I hoped that it wasn’t a cover of the 1994 mega-hit/novelty song from crooner Edwyn Collins. I assumed that it would be, though, seems Anna gives him a namecheck on her album. It seems that Anna is a fan, so I won’t go too far into my thoughts on Edwyn’s output – but I will say that Anna turns a song I have tried to avoid for close to two decades into a dark, brooding, and addictive masterpiece. She growls over synths and percussion and turns this song into something truly menacing.

And then we end on ‘Hairier Now.’ Sonically the softest and most gentle song, it is lyrically the most searing and reflective. A story about meeting with an ex and looking back on the mixed feelings surrounding that withered relationship, Anna also turns this into an opportunity to look at how both of their lives have changed since they said goodbye. It is full of Anna’s ever present humour and honesty and manages to be both sad and redemptive at the same time.

These four songs do an amazing job of showing the range that Anna has, from heartbreaking ballads to jaunty pop songs, through crunchy industrial sounds and a cover song  fit for the closing moments of an indie club night. And yet somehow it all seems so cohesive. Threaded through everything is a willingness to lay herself bare, admitting everything from her insecurities about hairiness to a relief to be rid of an ex and a wish to not have to share a home with the people she shares a home with. This endless truth was present on A Common Turn too, but what is really exciting about These Dreams is that she shows she can keep that core while also experimenting with the new styles she only hinted at on the album. An amazing career awaits her on the evidence of her 2021 releases.

Words by Fran Slater

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