Sunday, April 5, 2009

This is probably not in any way objective.

At about 4PM yesterday, I received an urgent phone call from Jim.

"Hey, Kristina," he whispers furtively.
"Hey Jim, what's up?"
"I'm calling from the computer lab and I'm trying to be quiet, but it leaked."
"Get online, it leaked."

The fact that I knew what "it" was without even having to ask is pretty indicative of the fact that St. Vincent released one of the best first albums I've ever heard, Marry Me. And yesterday, her new album, Actor, began floating around the internet. And honestly, the only problem I might have with this album is that it's too similar to Marry Me. The question is, is that a problem?

Every time I think of something general to say about Actor, I listen to another song again and it refutes it. I was going to say that Actor is mellower than Annie Clark's previous album... less driving, perhaps... but then I listen to "The Strangers," which is an oddly orchestral opening with a nice constant beat under it that pushes it forward. "Actor Out of Work" is another song with a lovely driving beat, lots of "Oooh oooh ooohs," and some nice buzzy brass. It definitely makes me want to dance.

Arguably the best song on the album, and Jim might agree with me, is "The Neighbors." It's repetitive, but the repetition works. The song starts out kind of fugue-like, and moves into distorted guitars for a bit... then goes back to the fugue-ness. It feels kind of distracted, yet at the same time wholly pulled together.

Lyrically, my favorite is "The Bed."

"We're sleeping underneath the bed
To scare the monsters out
With our dear Daddy's Smith & Wesson
We've gotta teach them all a lesson...
Don't move
Don't scream
Or we will have to shoot."

I've never heard "Smith & Wesson" sung so beautifully. I get this amazing, adorable, yet kind of creepy image of two kids hiding under the bed with a gun, ready to face the monsters, but kind of nodding off to sleep. The clarinet trills and the moving violin lines add whimsy. Mostly because I really like the word whimsy.

I tend to build these huge mountains of expectation for albums released by my favorite artists, and sometimes I end up disappointed (coughcoughSTADIUMARCADIUMcoughcough). I am so very much not disappointed by Actor. It's gorgeous and catchy and I know that when Ms. Clark performs it live it'll get dance-y and even better. And if Pitchfork thinks it's a bad album, they will officially have no more credibility in my eyes. Just sayin'.

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