Outside of her native UK, Anna Calvi has never quite hit the popular or critical mainstream. On the surface, it’s hard to see why. She’s one of Brian Eno’s disciples, with a voice many describe as ‘operatic’ (something she’s seemed a bit caught-up in on her sophomore record, One Breath) and a moral compass in line with current gender fluidity and female equality movements. Her music is powerful and purposeful, and yet it’s also tempered and emotional. Perhaps it’s that her musical realm is so dominated by male musicians, or that she sounds just a little too similar to PJ Harvey’s 1990s material – but neither of those are substantial reasons for Calvi not to thrive. Whether Hunter brings Calvi into the art-rock limelight remains to be seen, but it sure goes a long way to proving her case.

Her first new material in five years and four years after her Strange Weather covers EP, Calvi takes a few steps towards completing the promising sounds on her debut. She is, of course, as nakedly political regarding social issues of gender and misogyny as ever; while her approach is upfront and demanding, far more of a ‘megaphone to the face’ technique than just slipping a hinting note in your back pocket. The album’s first single, ‘Don’t Beat the Girl out of My Boy’, cements expectations of what is a very socially progressive record, and the rest of the tracks here live up to the billing. Calvi is powerfully wistful and unflinchingly direct, from opener ‘As a Man’ to ‘Chain’ and it’s “you be the girl, I’ll be the boy” refrain.

Instrumentally, Hunter makes certain amends to the protracted emptiness dotted throughout One Breath. This is her most encompassing record yet, ranging from the expected 90s PJ Harvey-influenced, Bad Seeds-y grandeur of ‘Alpha’ and ‘As a Man’ to heavier cuts, like the squealed guitar solo at the end of ‘Indies or Paradise’ or the 80s industrial no wave influenced phase of ‘Alpha’. Produced by Nick Launay and with Martyn P. Casey on bass, it’s no wonder so much of Hunter sounds so familiar in its Nick Cave-like odd grooves and sauntering production, and in truth it’s a sound that you never really tire of. Cave has worked off this for decades, and if anything it sounds fresh with a female voice at the helm.

An improvement on One Breath, Hunter is more experimental and less generic, with fuller production and catchier refrains. However, it isn’t without fault. Occasionally a bit cumbersome, Calvi’s slower tracks can drag at certain points in its track list. ‘Hunter’ is a particularly sluggish number, especially so for being only the album’s second track; while ‘Away’ is also too slow for an album that is by no means constantly intense. But overall, there’s not much bad to say about Hunter. It’s no grand statement nor future staple of art rock, but it’s Calvi’s most complete record yet. It grasps the catchiness of her debut, and kneads in an increased sense of maturity in her delivery of topical subjects, brought together with seasoned production and her expectedly dexterous, mighty voice.