St. Vincent makes all the Actors Cry

St. Vincent  

St. Vincent
Actor
4AD
 

Brooklynite Annie Clark, who now performs as St. Vincent, had a varied early musical career. It included a range of stints as a supporting musician, for Sufjan Stevens, Glenn Branca’s guitar orchestra, and even the robe-clad indie collective Polyphonic Spree. In like fashion, her second LP as a solo artist, Actor, has classification-hunters stumped.


Musically sophisticated yet unabashed in its pop appeal, it showcases Clark considerable skills as an instrumentalist (guitarist/keyboardist, et cetera) and her beautiful, flexible yet gutsy singing voice. Her choice of bandmates is wide-ranging; it includes concert music performers – violinist Daniel Hart, flutist Alex Sopp French horn-player Michael Adkinson, and wind-player Hideaki Aomori – as well as drummer Matthias Bossi and bassist William Flyn, members the of indie rock band Midlake. Integrated in the mix are deftly incorporated elements of electronica; displayed to great advantage on the IDM-ready, eminently memorable “The Stranger.” Similarly, “Just the Same but Brand New” lives up to its title; pop styles past – from 50s to 90s vintage – waft through a postmodern kaleidoscope, setting the stage for Clark’s evocative, supple singing.
 

Despite her nuanced musical approach, St. Vincent has captured mainstream media and even pop culture attention. A recent article in the NY Times ran with the headline, “Friendly, and Just a bit Creepy.” The latter description is doubtless due in no small part to the video for Actor’s leadoff single “Actor out of Work” (watch here, courtesy of YouTube). Under St. Vincent’s enigmatic, piercing stare, a succession of auditioning actors is reduced to tears. While the visuals are arresting, the music, which combines a Sixties-era “Wall of Sound” pop chorus, including layers of Vandellas-esque vocals, with a postmodern electro-pop aesthetic, is most engaging.
 

The lyric content on Actor doesn’t eschew provocation either; once again, juxtapositions abound. This is front and center on “Laughing with a Mouth of Blood;” an overtly visceral image is belied by the loveliness of the song and its rendition. A fully fleshed-out synthetic arrangement is wonderfully juxtaposed with Clark’s acoustic guitar solo introduction and breaks.
 

The CD closes with a gently articulated ballad, “The Sequel,” that features Actor’s assembled chamber orchestra, highlighting a beautiful solo from Adkinson. Clark channels jazz singer stylings in her breezy, lilting delivery; the song clocks in at just under two minutes – an all too fleeting, but eminently lustrous, miniature. One hopes a sequel to Actor will be fast forthcoming.

 

 

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