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Actor by St Vincent

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Reviewed on 26th July 2009.



By St Vincent

That's right, four and a half stars. Save yourself five minutes and just click the link below to purchase yourself a copy of the best album of the year so far: www.4ad.com.

A rare thing it is indeed these days to hear a second album surpass an impressive first. But that's exactly what Annie Clark of St Vincent has managed to achieve here. From the very first haunting moan of the flute, to the last string of the violin. The aptly titled second album 'Actor' is all about facades and reflections and persistently asks what's going on beneath the surface. One look at the album cover, which portrays Clark looking not unlike a Stepford wife, all wide eyes and porcelain features, would possibly have you expecting some indie pop served up on a platter of safe with a side order of tried and tested. But look closer and beneath this tranquil exterior there's something bubbling beneath the surface.

On the surface swooning, soulful vocals lure you into a false sense of security. These are juxtapose to the discomfort and anxiety of the lyrics. When Clark swoons "paint the black hole blacker" - from album opener 'The Strangers' - these poignant words serve to encapsulate the theme of St Vincent's new album. It's a melancholy one for sure. Certainly not one short of scope, ambition and, above all, theatre. We've already mentioned the inventive use of wind instruments; well that's just the tip of an orchestral iceberg. Foot stomps, bells, triangles, brass, choral section - entire ensembles feature at times in the same song. This serves to provide a supreme musical depth to an album already awash with ideas.

This classical influence features heavily on 'Actor.' Sweeping orchestral arrangements and wistful silver screen vocals give the impression this could be a film score from Hollywood's golden era greats. You could be forgiven for making this connection as it turns out one of Clark's primary influences behind the album was classic Walt Disney - whose films she would apparently shut herself away watching for hours, almost making this a kind of concept album.

This is a perfect analogy. Just as with all good fairy tales there are dark undertones here too. And just as the wicked witch looks into her magic mirror searching for answers only for untimely truths to be revealed, 'Actor' articulates its dark truths with that of the electric guitar, overdrive, synths and pounding kick drum. 'Actor' is that mirror. And it is Clark's means of portraying the anxiety, expectations and boredom that potentially lurks under every fašade of domestic bliss or suburban paradise.

'Actor' is out now, if you've bothered to read thus far and still aren't convinced, check out the video for single 'Actor Out of Work' which perfectly depicts the sense of fallacy and frustration in a very visceral and visual way. It also shows off the two sides of St Vincent's music and the contrast between the two - angelic vocals and classical arrangement on one side, grunge guitars and dark lyrics on the other - one you wouldn't immediately expect to work, but on the contrary, it does. More over, it does so beautifully, emphasising the caged emotions heard throughout the record.



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On 26th July 2009 at 15:19 Anonymous 5801 wrote...

Good review. I would probably give it a 9/10 also.

I'm even tempted to say that this is my favorite album of 09.



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