ActorAlbum | St. Vincent By Stewart Mason
Annie Clark's self-assured second album.
With its children's choirs, helium-light harmonies and song titles like "Jesus Saves, I Spend," St. Vincent's 2007 debut, Marry Me, flirted with preciousness. (Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark, who basically IS St. Vincent, had previously worked with both Sufjan Stevens and The Polyphonic Spree, so a fondness for the twee side of life is clearly a big part of her aesthetic.) Not only is Actor far less cutesy than Marry Me, it is in every way a superior album, featuring more complex songs, catchier hooks, and greater emotional shading in its lyrics. Clark feels more self-assured as both singer and lyricist throughout, and the wider use of outside instrumentalists (mostly on horns and reeds) gives her widescreen arrangements greater depth: the sudden left turn into ominous guitar distortion near the end of the otherwise lovely-albeit-foreboding "The Strangers" is only the first of many unexpected musical surprises. Comparisons to vintage Kate Bush (circa Never For Ever and The Dreaming) are not unwarranted.