Review Summary: Missed the shot by a hair.
Alex Turner is a very ambitious fellow. Not content with a full-time job as the leader of the omnipresent Arctic Monkeys, the man expanded his deeds this past decade into writing for other artists like Mini Mansions or Myles Kane, as well as into producing. The latter happened a couple of years back, and Alexandra Savior was his chosen muse. With her, he wrote and produced the Portland singer’s debut, Belladonna of sadness
. Having Savior singing a line like “I sing songs about whatever the fuck they want” just a few seconds into the first track was amusingly revelatory. Turns out, Turner had added a little more than just a personal
touch in Savior’s first release. In fact, and to no one’s surprise, the affair was considered almost unanimously as an Alex Turner solo album, channeled by Savior’s voice, whose performance was sadly eclipsed by the towering shadow of her mentor.
Two years later, Alexandra Savior re-appears after breaking free from Turner and leaving the golden jail of Columbia Records, hopping on Danger Mouse’s 30th Century Records instead to present her second release (well, the first true one if you’d agree on the above). The Archer
is, simply, a better record. Brooklyn based Sam Cohen (of Yellowbirds fame) has done a remarkable job as a producer, creating a delicious vintage sound that wouldn’t feel out of place on a 60s thriller. If Belladonna of sadness
was just testing the waters, The Archer
dives fearless into the sound of bands like Portishead or artists like Angel Olsen but giving space to Savior to unwind her talent at will.
“Saving Grace”, as the name implies, is the indisputable highlight of The Archer
. Coming from the moody piano driven opener “Soft Currents”, the single makes quite an impactful entrance. Trembling guitars cry on a mournful beat, with Savior singing on a higher, ghostly tone, proving she has the soul to write and perform a standout track on her own. “The Phantom” follows a similar pattern, like a James Bond’s villain theme, and so does the sugar-coated chorus of “But You”. These are some of the peaks in The Archer
, but unfortunately, the album doesn’t quite keep up with the quality of the first tracks and loses itself at times during songs like “Can’t Help Myself” or “Bad Disease”. Moreover, The Archer
ends rather abruptly. A song like “But You” could have closed the album in a more elegant and memorable manner, something that the brief, cold kiss of title track “The Archer” doesn’t really achieve.
In general, and save a few exceptions, Savior doesn’t really shine as a song-writer either, much less does she sound as an artist who has been unchained and itching to take flight without anyone or anything holding her down. On the contrary, her otherwise gorgeous voice is like a sedative. It carries a fatigue that is both confusing and exasperating, specially in a track like “Howl”, even if it’s just a stylistic choice. It’s not surprising that it matches perfectly the way she appears in every music video released for the singles included in The Archer
: an absent look in her eyes, arms crossed, waiting, wandering, or even lying down after losing the battle to complete boredom.
This feeling spills into her music at times, in excess often: a mix of melancholia and apathy hard to brush off after the first few listens, but if given some patience, The Archer
reveals itself as a very interesting album when considering where Savior is coming from. It’s a record that shows the artist as she really is, with her virtues and defects in equal measure, all of them wrapped in a terrific production work that speaks for itself. It’s in songs like “Saving Grace”, “Crying all the time” or “But you” where her strength resides, veering towards trip hop and the Bristol sound that made art out of sorrow, and if that is where she’s headed, it’s just a matter of time before she aims and hits the spot right on.