Ahead of the release of her second album on March 12th, The Anchoress has announced her new single, the title track from ‘The Art of Losing’ out Jan 22nd, following its premiere by Steve Lamacq on BBC 6Music and the NME.
It’s accompanied by a striking video riffing on ‘fake news’ and the role the media play in reporting tragedy. The new single updates the optimistic new wave pop sound of David Bowie, Depeche Mode, and Talk Talk, and is produced by Davies and mixed by Grammy award-winning Bowie collaborator Mario McNulty.
“This song is the centre of the album thematically speaking,” Davies says. “Every idea about interrogating loss and what we learn or gain from it is funnelled through it. In a way it’s an upbeat reworking of the Nietzschean themes I explored on my debut – “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – but here, I guess, I’m arriving at a refutation of that myth, which I think is pretty pointless when you’re trying to rationalise grief. I think it’s something that we can all relate to in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.”
Watch the video for ‘The Art of Losing’ – BELOW:
The new single follows ‘Show Your Face’, which was also premiered by Steve Lamacq on BBC 6 Music and spent 4 weeks on the station’s playlist, as well as being named in The Mail on Sunday’s ‘20 Best Songs of 2020’. The album has also entered the Amazon Hot New Releases pre-order sales chart at No.1 and vinyl resale chart at No. 6.
Written and produced by Davies, ‘The Art of Losing’ ambitiously navigates the detritus of death and the process of trying to climb out of it and make something from it. In the aftermath of several years of huge personal loss, after the untimely death of her father from an aggressive brain tumour, undergoing treatment for cervical cancer, and navigating multiple miscarriages and surgeries, the record follows Dylan Thomas’ instruction to “rage against the dying of the light”. And there is nothing sonically “gentle” about its enquiry. But despite the unhappy backdrop to its composition, the album is a far from a dour affair. Rather, the fourteen tracks create a technicolour eruption of emotions, firmly concerned with how to find purpose in the midst of grief: “What did you learn when life was unkind? Was there some purpose to losing my mind?”, she asks on the title track.
The title of the album and single is inspired by the opening line of the Elizabeth Bishop poem ‘One Art’ – perhaps unsurprising for someone who also holds a PhD in literature (“which was how I funded making album one… education was my only way out of the life I was born into.”). But conceptually, the record covers ground beyond loss in its literal form: The first single ‘Show Your Face’ responds to toxic masculinity and leans into the #MeToo movement (amidst the angular guitar courtesy of James Dean Bradfield), while the patriarchal dynamics of the music industry are further explored on the wurltizer-led ‘With The Boys’. At the emotional centre of the album is ‘5 am’ – a haunting song that looks at the visceral physical impact of sexual assault and baby loss, with its quiet but powerful contemplation of the shared female experience.
There’s a Scott Walker-eque baroque feel to the voice at the healing heart of the album, which is bookended by a series of Max Richter-inspired orchestral instrumental pieces. Loss is figured in both its raw newness and as a propelling energy, with hook-laden nods to Bowie’s Berlin-era . ‘Unravel’ announces itself as a twentieth-first century reworking of ‘Running Up That Hill’, colliding with the chorused guitars of The Cure. Elsewhere, the John Grant and Father John Misty flavoured ‘Let It Hurt’ explores “the ways in which we distract ourselves from grief”, while the sound-collaged segues recall the more experimental side of Prog.
‘The Art of Losing’ is a sonically ambitious album that is helmed by Davies on sole production duties – a move she said felt natural after having a “side hussle” in engineering and producing for other artists and bands: “I feel passionate about the idea that it shouldn’t be a novelty to see women behind a mixing desk. There’s lots of us out there!”. To finish the self-produced record, Davies called upon the mixing talents of Dave Eringa (Manic Street Preachers) and Grammy-award winner Mario McNulty (David Bowie, Laurie Anderson).
An accompanying podcast features guest interviews which explore why we create and what we learn from loss, featuring conversations with Welsh poet Patrick Jones, writer Kat Lister, and Empire editor-in-chief Terri White.