If you're looking for a new album to complement your collection on this Cinco de Mayo, let St. Vincent's new Actor be just that album. Annie Clark, the driving force behind St. Vincent, has somehow outdone herself on her second LP. She combines her yearning vocals with complex and overwhelming instrumentals, swirling together to compose an album beyond compare. She showed us what she was capable of with 2007's Marry Me, and Actor not only outshines its predecessor, it defies categorization with an effortless nonchalance most artists will never find in their careers. She'll also be in town this month.
Marry Me, the first album from the former Polyphonic Spree guitarist, was one of 2007's best efforts -- a sterling debut that showcased Clark's soft, dark vocals and her penchant for such goofy, transcendent lyrics like, "Oh, John, c'mon we'll do what married people do / Oh, John, c'mon, let's do what Mary and Joseph did / Without the kid." Clark has stepped up her game superbly, outdoing Marry Me while still finding time to fit in supremely absurd -- yet incredibly original -- lyrics like "Paint the black hole blacker" from the track "The Strangers," the lead single from Actor.
The second song, "Save Me From What I Want," possesses the power to lodge itself inside your brain for a solid two weeks. It is set in place by the drum beat -- a simple yet infectious thump -- and Clark's subtle vocals take care of the rest. "Black Rainbow" slowly and teasingly builds to a thundering mix of violins, guitars and drums. The song is coquettish at first, an unassuming little ditty that ultimately ends in a clash of sound that most proper rock bands wish they could achieve.
"The Party" follows in the same guise as "Black Rainbow," yet it one-ups the earlier song with it's absolutely transcendent closing instrumentals. The song moves along lazily at first, incorporating a lucid chorus of "oohs" and "ahs" layered over a soft piano. But the crescendo is building, and the song explodes into an unbelievable harmonious medley of Clark's vocals, cascading drums and sublime violins. I caught myself listening to the track while I was doing some work, not being able to focus once the last half kicked in because the song had absolutely capitaved every one of my sensibilities. Clark had taken me to her world, and I was merely a spectator enjoying her melodies and rhythms.
Not being one to be easily outdone, Clark follows up "The Party" with "Just the Same But Brand New," a song that is light and soft at first -- yet later transforming into a fervent, cathartic display of driving drums and the same jangly guitars present throughout the whole song. It is a haunting melody that will stick with once you've finished its 5 minutes and 24 seconds, and it completes a one-two punch, with "The Party," that is unparalelled on any album this year.
Clark aimed for the moon with Actor, and her showmanship and polish is remarkable this time around. I shudder to think what else she is capable of, but I, along with the rest of her fans, am lucky to have such an innovative genius like herself to appreciate.
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