The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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St. Vincent returns with stellar second album, ‘Actor’

In 2007 after brief stints with The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens’ touring band, mild-mannered Annie Clark surprised the indie-rock world with her debut album, “Marry Me.” Appropriately titled after a running joke on the TV show “Arrested Development,” the album mixes her quirky lyrical style with varying musical textures and kitschy studio effects.

For those who became enthralled with “Marry Me,” a continuation of that sound would be anything but disappointing.

However, on “Actor,” St. Vincent delves deeper into the more interesting aspects of her debut on her newest record, while abandoning the cutesy nature of her past songwriting. In fact, album spans a wide array of emotional ranges from the sadly hopeful (“Save Me From What I Want”) to the downright scary (“The Bed”).

In “The Party,” she frankly claims “I’d pay an evening to keep my conscience clean.” The tragic nature of the lyrics on the album surface repeatedly from beginning to end, pulling the listener back and forth between amusement and anxiety.

This juxtaposition is best explored in “Actor Out Of Work,” a song that I predict will be permanently stuck in the heads and hearts of indie kids for the rest of 2009.

If the lyrics aren’t enough, the production and arrangement on the album is meticulously crafted to reflect the almost cinematic character of the songs. As an instrumental album, I could easily see it as the subtle background of the next Wes Anderson or Sam Mendes film.

With DFW resident John Congleton at the production helm, it’s no wonder Actor oozes with indie-rock staples. From the pulsing kick drum beat of opener “The Strangers” to the droning harmonium at the beginning of “Save Me From What I Want.”

The only flaw with the record is that, much like many other modern indie artists, St. Vincent abandons the pop sensibility for drawn out experimentation about three-fourths of the way in, making for a mildly top-heavy album.

However, through and through, you can’t help but love her refusal to bow to musical trends when oboes, flutes, and dissonant strings emerge in “The Sequel.”

“Actor” is an interesting collection of songs that will satisfy Clark’s fanbase. Buy “Marry Me,” and fall in love. Then, on May 4th buy “Actor” and hear an artist in her prime but hopefully not her peak.

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