St. Vincent
Actor


4.0
excellent

Review

by Jonathan Kroening USER (29 Reviews)
May 10th, 2010 | 25 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Bewitching and flawed in all the ways a tale of happily ever after ought to be.

In her second outing, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark says she’s making “a metaphor for the whole artistic mindset.” Through the telling of what she calls “little meta moments” Clark presents the image of an artist’s desperate endeavor. These “meta moments” are little more than an admirable attempt at this theme as the record never quite grasps the struggling artist message. Yet an alluring album gradually comes into full bloom as the quirky turns and oddball moods become more and more homey.

After one trip through Actor it is painfully obvious that this album was written in Apple’s GarageBand. The drum beats are generic, reeking of rotten Apple Loops. This gives many of the songs the effect of feeling small rather than spacious. It sounds like Clark is trapped inside a laptop. It would be easy to attribute this sound to her desire to convey the cage of artistic endeavor, or perhaps the anxiety of suburban life as imparted in “Black Rainbow.” However this feels like a manufactured causal relationship. There’s more evidence to support Clark’s use of strings pads and orchestra samples as the foundation to Actor, with the melodies and lyrics following behind. To ascribe a deeper meaning to the use of a laptop orchestra would be a distortion of the process.

Within the small space of these songs there still blossoms something far-reaching. In “The Neighbors” and the aforementioned “Black Rainbow” Clark connects with a tale of a G-rated Pleasantville. Through the former’s disorderly meter jumping and the latter’s climax of evil Disney witch soundtrack, she succeeds in communicating a feeling of social unrest. The quintessential neighborhood is at odds with the “bird fighting it’s own reflection.”

Expanding on the antithetical Disney theme is “The Strangers” with its slight dementia that eventually falls down a rabbit hole of fairytale nightmares. The use of sulking clarinet samples throughout, most notably on “The Bed”, contributes to the blemished princess motif. On “The Party”, a highly memorable track with time signature shifts, the downside of Clark’s sample use comes to full frame. The orchestra in the final third of the song sounds so fake it actually kills the evolution of the track. No doubt it would’ve been ideal to use a real orchestra here, with it’s lush, flowing, sweeping dynamics instead of the conspicuous pressing of keys to simulate string changes.

In addition to her heavy reliance on Apple’s GarageBand it also appears Clark had her iTunes set on repeat of Radiohead circa ’00-’01. She evokes Thom Yorke in “Just The Same But Brand New” with the line “I might be wrong, I might be wrong” and mimics drummer Phil Selway’s trip roll snare of Kid A’s “Morning Bell” in “Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood.”

Interestingly, on the vinyl release in the UK the track listing has "The Sequel" following "Black Rainbow", leaving "Just The Same But Brand New" as the album’s closer. With "The Sequel" as the last track of the album it gives the ending a sense of being reborn, a sequel, a start anew. Moving it to the middle of the album causes it to come across as more of a transitional track -- while it does have the affect of a new morning or sunbreak after the pounding rainstorm that was "Black Rainbow", "Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood" fills that role just fine on its own. What this alternate track order does however, is allow "Just The Same But Brand New" to be the unearthly, dark closer that it feels like it should be.

At various turns it would be nice to hear a little more power in Clark’s vocal, specifically on “Marrow” which borrows residual aggression from Björk’s Volta. Clark gets buried underneath the distortion and a few lessons in dynamics from the Icelandic soprano would have suited her well in Actor’s eerie ventures.

Wading through the thematic haze of Actor progressively reveals an album with loads of beauty and turns of fright, often times simultaneous. While it’s carriage is not nearly perfect, the road it chooses to travel isn’t either, and the potholes and ruts are a welcome part of the experience.

4 / 5 stars

-Jonathan Kroening
www.itsjustmusic.net



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user ratings (361)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Ryan Flatley EMERITUS (4)
Actor shows the potential and talent that St. Vincent ultimately holds...

robin EMERITUS (4.5)
Just what everyone wanted her to do: develop....

A_Guy (4.5)
This sophomore release from St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) showcases even more complex and catchy com...


Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2010


15083 Comments


ooh hooray! reading in a sec

AggravatedYeti
May 10th 2010


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

summary = win.

gonna read this later, gotta head out but honestly I'm sure it doesn't suck ;D

plane
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2010


6100 Comments


It's all just too

AggravatedYeti
May 10th 2010


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

you're 3 is just too

robin
Emeritus
May 10th 2010


4261 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

actually it's a three.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2010


15083 Comments


"It's all just too"

dude i think u forgot an adjective

AggravatedYeti
May 10th 2010


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

actually it's a three.


thx Holmes.

robin
Emeritus
May 10th 2010


4261 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

no problem whoever holmes' sidekick is.

annie clark is still my favourite person ever.

AggravatedYeti
May 10th 2010


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

[img]http://static.reelmovienews.com/images/gallery/sherlock-holmes-preview.jpg[/img]

me - robin - robertsona

that's how this is working.

annie clark is a peach.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2010


15083 Comments


my friend is probably her biggest fan ever

robin
Emeritus
May 10th 2010


4261 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

you and me are friends now?

also lol dylan. go make some films

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2010


15083 Comments


any of u guys see her live ever?

also lol this is him: http://www.last.fm/user/InfectiousElf/library/music/St.+Vincent?sortOrder=desc&sortBy=plays

robin
Emeritus
May 10th 2010


4261 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

understandable. she is the best thing ever. and i live in england (as proved above) what do you think? =( but yeah it's not about the quantity of plays man, it's about the quality. ive always been so close to fiving this and marry me, i think i just might. is she good live? id love to see her with the spree, too. wait, is she still a part of that?

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2010


15083 Comments


ive always been so close to fiving this and marry me, i think i just might.


my friend would do this in a second.

is she good live?


she's REALLY good. then again, so was the venue IMO (http://www.jalc.org/about/2004_galleries/Facility_Images/images/Allen-Room-center-mezzanine.jpg)

wait, is she still a part of that?


dont think so

plane
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2010


6100 Comments


I saw her before the National. Also with the Spree when she thought that was cool

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2010


15083 Comments


do i sense contempt

robin
Emeritus
May 10th 2010


4261 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i wish the spree was cool. =(

DeafMetal
May 10th 2010


8587 Comments


Everything she does is fantastic. I wouldn't mind kissing her either ;(

plane
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2010


6100 Comments


do i sense contempt

No, both shows were immensely entertaining

Roach
May 10th 2010


2148 Comments


i'd go to a st vince show just to watch you having fun lewis

i want to see how you do it



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