Album Review

Actor

Actor

by St Vincent


4AD
8 / 10
13th May 2009

Reviewed by Paul Gallagher


Annie Clark, one time member of the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens' travelling band of musicians, follows her 2007 full length debut "Marry Me" with a more convincing yet disturbed delivery of her aural promise: "Actor".  

This new album builds on what "Marry Me" offered and takes it further than I ever thought it could go. While her debut frustrated me, the follow up is full of concise craft and is an even-handed bully of an offering. It is layered, heavily structured and densely unforgiving. While still leaning on her classically trained musical skillset and her fiendish productivity (she plays almost everything on the album), Clark has taken time to explore the other, darker sides of musical themes and has taken friends from Midlake and Sufjan Stevens' band on the demented pop journey.  

This is an engaging group of songs full of fleeting sighs and concerns of feelings floating around Clark's haunted consciousness.  

The single "Actor Out of Work" is an obvious standout with guitar-heavy throes of determination. "Laughing With a Mouth of Blood" is a plodding elegy to her history - "All of my old friends aren't so friendly, All of my old haunts are now haunting me"- which builds and rises throughout its length only to leave you hanging and aching for something to break. In the beat-ridden "Marrow" she pleads with the listener for help, before the slower, macabre "The Bed" eases her out of disfunction and brings her thoughts back to level ground. The first three tracks ("The Strangers"; "Save Me From What I Want"; and "The Neighbors") deliver a swirling, uncomfortable - yet pleasurable - start to the album. The closer, "The Sequel", begins in a similar way to the closer of Marry Me but instead winds itself onto a path of acoustic guitar as Clark delivers a mournful ode to the thoughts and feelings evident within the ten tracks prior.  

"Actor" is a more intellectually stimulating record, without much of the cutesy content of her debut full-length.

Paul Gallagher




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