Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 5/5/09.
2007's Marry Me was an acclaimed debut from indie musician Annie Clark in her St. Vincent moniker. The record attracted attention from the indie music press as they hailed her record as one of the best debuts of that year. While Clark continues to contribute for other artists including the Dresden Dolls vocalist Amanda Palmer, Clark was still planning work for her second record. This time around, Clark wanted to broaden her sound while making it into a concept of sorts for the album's title entitled Actor.
Written and performed by Annie Clark with production by Clark and John Congleton, Actor is an album that takes Clark's unique blend of rock, indie-pop, electronics, and jazz to newer, more aggressive heights. With songs filled with themes of conflicts and the struggles of acting, it's a record that has Clark taking on new challenges for herself as a singer and songwriter. Featuring contributions from Daniel Hart on violins and Hideaki Aomori, the result is a brilliant, chaotic, yet seductive album from Annie Clark in her St. Vincent moniker.
The album opener The Strangers arrives with a brief, choir-like sound of flutes and vocals with a bouncy, rhythmic programmed beat to Annie Clark's soothing, calm vocals. With its eccentric, colorful lyrics and pluck-scratching guitars, the song is carried by wavy string arrangements with backgrounds of tingling percussions and Clark's mesmerizing vocals that includes thrashing, droning guitars in the coda as its performance intensifies. Save Me From What I Want is a mid-tempo track with distorted, pounding beats, an opening section of blaring keyboards as Clark sings in her angelic, evocative vocals with lyrics filled with dark, desperate lyrics filled with descriptive imagery. With a spurting guitar riff with distorted, pounding bass tracks, it's a song that is weird yet accessible.
The Neighbors is another mid-tempo song with swooning noises and warbling, pounding beats accompanying to Clark's sensual, dream-like vocals. With its dark, biting lyrics and a presentation of pounding drums and soft, blaring keyboard accompaniments. It's a song that is supported by its broad production that captures every instrument performed including a grinding guitar and melodic noises of keyboards. The album's first single Actor Out Of Work is a straight-ahead rocker with charging, droning guitars and hard-pounding drums to Clark's soothing, angelic vocals. With its aggressive presentation that includes blaring horns and Clark's angry, somber lyrics, it's a song that features so much including choral-like backing vocals that provide layers to the performance and production.
Black Rainbow opens with a wavy flute performance that later serves as an accompaniment to the mid-tempo song with bouncy keyboard riffs with Clark singing in her calm, evocative vocals. With its descriptive, imagery-laden lyrics, it's a song that has a nice presentation that is playful to its dark tone which includes a menacing coda of pounding drums and blaring violins. Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood is a mid-tempo ballad that begins with a melodic acoustic guitar performance and somber string arrangements. With Clark's dreamy vocals and a dreamier backing vocal, the song has a unique presentation of a moody electronic-like track for the verse with a more rhythmic, distorted version in its chorus with melancholic, quirky lyrics that give the song some humor. Marrow opens with swirling, wailing synthesizer track to a soft, bouncy beat. With its grinding sounds of noises and guitars in an ambient-presentation to accompany Clark's ethereal vocals. The song then goes into a rhythmic presentation with its bumping beats and distorted bass lines to Clark's quirky, esoteric lyrics.
The Bed is a rhythmic ballad of sorts with acoustic guitar swirls, pounding bass drums, and choral-like arrangements of strings and vocals. With Clark's dreamy vocals carrying the song with its imagery-laden lyrics. With its broad sound of string arrangements and spurting guitar/bass riffs, it's a song that shows Clark's versatility in sounds. The Party is a bouncy, piano ballad with Clark's calm, wailing vocals filled with descriptive lyrics about a crazy party. With its melodic piano presentation, it's a song that has an interesting narrative as its simple presentation and choral-like coda of wailing vocals and smooth, pounding drums makes it key to the song's brilliance. Just The Same But Brand New is another ballad with melodic keyboard flourishes and Clark's soothing, evocative vocals. With its melodic-driven guitars and esoteric, dream-like lyrics, it's a song that plays up to its atmospheric tone with a weird yet layered production that only becomes intense with its pounding drums near its coda.
The album closer The Sequel arrives with a wavy arrangement of flutes, organs, and woodwinds to Clark's ethereal vocals. With an acoustic guitar flourish and screeching string arrangements arriving to build some momentum, it's Clark's vocals and haunting lyrics that carry through the song making it a fitting closer for the album.
Actor is a superb, rich, and versatile masterpiece from Annie Clark in her St. Vincent moniker. Just as her first album Marry Me exemplified her versatile styles of music is reached to newer heights with this record. Filled with crazier but tighter arrangements, chaotic musical presentations, and a sound that is described as broad and atmospheric in the likes of the Beach Boys and the Flaming Lips. Actor is a record that is masterfully made with great details in the production and performance while Clark's voice is definitely one of the best ever heard in the indie music scene. In the end, for a record that has songs that go all over the place but also is filled great melodies and hooks. St. Vincent's Actor is the record to hear from someone as complex and talented as Annie Clark.
(C) thevoid99 2011