Audible Musings

St. Vincent – Actor
July 9, 2009, 5:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As a disclaimer, I know this album is relatively old, but I post about albums as I listen to them, not necessarily in the order they are released.

Annie Clark, known more widely as the musician St. Vincent, released Actor, an album that critics are hailing as one of the top albums of the year, in early May. On several other more prominent blogs and music websites, this album consistently rates in their top albums of the year so far, sharing the spotlight alongside the likes of Animal Collective’s eclectic Merriweather Post Pavillion, Grizzly Bear’s enigmatic Veckatimest, and Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Individually, these three albums are difficult to top, let alone compete with. As a group, their collective corssover appeal and musical mastery make them almost impossible competition.

And yet, St. Vincent, a former member of The Polyphonic Spree as well as Sufjan Stephen’s touring ensemble, = is able to toss her hat in the ring with these, some of the biggest names in indie rock. Her lyrics are instantly accessible, depicting a melodrama of suburban American life that, once a song-writing cliche, is recussitated by her silky voice that purrs, “What would your mother say, what would your father think, what would the neighbors do?”

The topic is, of course, the prospect of a stifled, “safe” lifestyle that poses no threats, no concerns, and no incidental personal benefits; the type of dull, banal lifestyle that was so viscerally shunned by the hippie generation, and, sadly, that is making a return into our lives today. Clark has no problem making us aware of the creative and empassioned vivacity within us all, and begs that we let it run free and untamed instead of feigned and reserved “dignity.”

Musically, Clark skillfully channels the artful impressionism of classical music and lays it raw beside a crunchy guitar that screams across the room like an angry parent telling their wayward daughter to get in line. For an instant, Clark will woo the listener with her dainty voice that somehow rings of innocence and chastity, and in the next smack the listener across the face with disjoint time signatures or a controlled cacophony of confusion and a woman in tears, wandering a bleak road through a life of repetition and tedium.

Although she doesn’t convey this degree of internal dischord through her voice, Clark is most certainly able to make the correct musica choices to get her point across. With swirling violins and screaming guitars, Clark takes the listener over the proverbial edge with her protagonists who are slowly but steadily consumed from the inside out by the infestuous urge to break free. When it finally manifests itself in, most often, violence. the music reaches its peak and the listener feels the release of tension as vividly as a stretched rubber band thats snapped with a crack against human flesh. The title, Actor, is aptly suited, then. For to constrain the passion within is to merely to put on a ramshackle fascade of similitude and mediocrity.

St. Vincent – Actor


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