Album Review: St Vincent – Actor

When Annie Clark dons the mantle of St. Vincent, extraordinary things happen.  In her 2007 debut, Marry Me, Clark exhibited a witty verve for lyric-writing and an adventurous spirit in her musical arrangements which has come to spectacular fruition in her new release.

An album of contrasts, Actor effortlessly marries dreamy, intricate storytelling with sinister snatches of bloody violence.  Her musical arrangements, like her lyrics, inhabit a liminal area of experience – a realm between light and dark where anything is possible and everything is relevant.

The musical diversity of the album is encapsulated by tracks like ‘The Strangers’, ‘Laughing With a Mouth of Blood’ and ‘Marrow’, which seamlessly span delicate flute melodies, growling, feedback-heavy guitars, ghostly harmonies and stomping beats.

‘The Neighbors’ is an electro delight over which Clark’s effervescent voice shimmers.  The track’s childlike optimism for a better world is brilliantly undercut by pounding drums, ferocious guitars and an unidentifiable source of foreboding, as exhibited in the chorus:

Let’s pour wine in coffee cups and drive around the neighbourhood
And shine the headlights on houses until all the news is good. 
Oh no – What would your mother say?
Oh no – What would your father do?
Oh no – what would the neighbours think?
Oh no – If they only knew.

Monsters lurk under beds and are held up with ‘daddy’s Smith and Western’, socially inept couples overstay their welcome at parties and black holes are painted blacker.  The brilliance of this album is so sumptuously and intricately layered that no reviewer could hope to explain the wonder Annie Clark has achieved.  You’d be a fool not to find out.

Words: Helen True

Read the FFS interview with St Vincent here.