Monday, January 23, 2012

St. Vincent - Actor


Actor Out of Work
Laughing with a Mouth of Blood
The Party

I thought Actor was overhyped when it first came out. It was strange, it was intimidating, its hooks were subdued, it was artsy. But then Strange Mercy dropped two years later and I couldn’t stop playing the damned thing. Revisiting St. Vincent’s sophomore record has led to the discovery of an incredibly strong Side B. I first heard the bizarre “Marrow” on a Letterman episode and was impressed by the musicality of the whole thing. Her performance was solid, but it took me a half dozen listens to fully embrace its groovy glory, its wind and brass led instrumentation, the brilliance of its mechanical sound pairing with Clark's pleas to no longer be controlled.

The song that immediately hit me was “The Party”, a beautiful piece driven by a slow, refrained swing, which backs the story of a budding romance. “The Bed” has a haunting feel, complete with the harnessed echoes of Disney music that has, as far as I’m concerned, become her trademark; the effects and its theatrical nature hearkens to Andrew Bird. The best of the best is “Laughing With a Mouth of Blood”, which begins with an expertly crafted, finger-picking riff and opens up in to an upbeat, almost hip-hop like rhythm. When the acoustic riff comes back in Clark sings my favorite lyrics on the record: “All of my old friends aren’t so friendly / All of my old haunts are now haunting me”. It turns out there’s an amusing video for the song as well, Portlandia fans should be pleased.

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