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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just the same, but brand new
According to St. Vincent aka Annie Clark, "Actor" is all about losers. Unhappy, lonely people who are struggling to tread water.

Hey, any album that has makes the emoesque line "paint the black hole blacker" work has got to have something special. And Clark's second solo album is a little lot of unhappiness and melancholy wrapped in woobling synth and vintage...
Published on May 5, 2009 by E. A Solinas

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's good, but not as good as Marry Me...
All I had heard of this album was that it was better than her debut album Marry Me, which I greatly enjoyed. And while it's a good album, it's not better than Marry Me. In fact, I'd say it's the other way around.

If you appreciated the complex arrangements of the first, it's quite noticeable that, as stated by the artist, she used Garage Band to compose the...
Published on October 23, 2009 by Brian Robertson


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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just the same, but brand new, May 5, 2009
This review is from: Actor (Audio CD)
According to St. Vincent aka Annie Clark, "Actor" is all about losers. Unhappy, lonely people who are struggling to tread water.

Hey, any album that has makes the emoesque line "paint the black hole blacker" work has got to have something special. And Clark's second solo album is a little lot of unhappiness and melancholy wrapped in woobling synth and vintage crackles, eruptions of blurry sound and beautiful vocals. It has a more unified sound than her debut, twisting catchy pop melodies into unpredictable streams of oddball indie music.

"Lover, I don't play to win/For the thrill until I'm spent/Paint the black hole blacker... What do I share?/What do I keep from all the strangers who sleep where I sleep," St Vincent sings wistfully over an angular little accordion-laced melody. About halfway through, it whirls off into echoing space while the synth spirals around her.

It's followed the ethereal, drum-saturated "Save Me From What I Want," fast-paced guitar pop laced with drawling vocals, and whirling fever dreams of slightly warped pop melodies -- they're soaked in woobly organ, cacophonous eruptions of sound, and interludes of dreamlike synth. The album winds down on a mellower note with the last trio of songs: the off-kilter piano pop of the "The Party" (which serves as an awe-inspiring climax), the crystalline fragility of "Just The Same But Brand New," and the wistful horn-saturated drift of "The Sequel."

Not to mention "The Bed," a delicate tangle of piano and twittering flute... until you realize that it's about children who have "gotta teach them all a lesson" ("them" being all-too-human monsters) with their "dear daddy's Smith and Wesson." Seriously: "Stop, right where you stand/We need a chalk outline if you can/Put your hands where we can see them please...")

Speaking just for myself, I like my pop music to either be energetic enough to not merely be catchy, or bizarre enough to stand out in a sea of mediocre, instantly forgettable pop hooks. You know, the garbage that pop tarts regularly put out Fortunately St Vincent is more than quirky enough to fit the bill -- and while her previous album "Marry Me" was a colourful splash of different sounds, "Actor" is a more subtle affair with a more melancholic sound.

Most of the songs are polished, smooth concoctions with lots of classical instrumentation -- piano, twittering flute, sharp drums, horns, and violins that switch between smooth instrumentals and squiggling bow-noises -- as well as weaving in some nimble guitar melodies. But those songs are given odd warps and bends thanks to the synth, which washes itself through every melody -- sweeps, squiggles, fuzzing, and the occasional rich organ.

And then back to the album's theme: losers. Lots of 'em. Okay, it's a little harsh to describe every song as being losercentric, but it isn't focused on happy people.

Most of the songs are imbued with a sense of everyday loneliness -- an unhappy trip home ("All of my old friends aren't so friendly/All of my old haunts are now all haunting me"), nighttime drives, parties that are over and broken loves. St. Vincent has a rich smooth voice, a knack for clever phrases ("my pockets hang out like two surrender flags") and a few angular snatches of poetry ("The unkissed boys and girls of paradise /Are lining up around the block/Back pockets full of dynamite...").

"Actor" is a gorgeously off-kilter pop album that sounds like a visit to a lonely urban street, full of rain and unhappy people. Bravo, St. Vincent.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Follow-Up to One of the Decade's Best Albums, May 5, 2009
By 
Cale E. Reneau "Mound of Wires" (Conroe, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Actor (Audio CD)
Annie Clark's 2007 debut as St. Vincent is (still), in my opinion, the best debut album from a female solo artist in the last decade. In it, she introduced herself as a charismatic, talented artist with a beautiful voice and an absolute skill for crafting charming pop songs. On Actor, her sophomore release, Clark is content to not retread old grounds entirely while simultaneously expanding on the sound that made her so endearing in the first place. The result is an album that is not near as solid as its predecessor, but portrays Annie Clark as a person who is capable of more than pretty little pop songs.

Actor, first and foremost, is a much heavier, denser album than Marry Me; more Shara Worden than Regina Spektor. Clark's guitar skills are not as apparent on this album, but they have their loud, obtrusive moments. "The Strangers," opens the album on a light, bouncy note as Clark sings "Paint the black hole blacker," over some lovely instrumentation. It's not until the instrumental bridge that we witness the darkness of which she sings - an incredibly distorted electric guitar, bursting through the mix to accelerate the song and, consequently, the album as well. Keep that in mind. It's not the last time it'll pop up on Actor.

The album's biggest flaw is its lack of many catchy hooks. That sounds kind of shallow, but it's something the Marry Me had - that made it so relentlessly listenable - that Actor does not. "Actor Out of Work" and "Marrow" are the most notable exceptions to this comment, the former being the album's first single and most radio-friendly tune. "Marrow," on the other hand, is just an awesome example of Clark's "WTF-ness." One second she's singing softly of some ghoulish synth choirs and the next she's singing "H-E-L-P/Help me!/ Help me!" over a consortium of distorted guitars, drums, and a saxophone (among others, I'm sure). On my first run-through of Actor, it was the first track to stand out and give me a "whoah" moment. It remains my favorite even now and is a must-listen for any fan that would like to hear Annie's take on "acid pop."

What Actor lacks in catchiness, it more than makes up for with dramatic flair. The instrumentation on this album makes Marry Me sound anemic in comparison. It was a very vocally-driven album. Actor undoubtedly proves that Annie Clark is capable of more than just a pretty voice, and she deserves all the credit in the world for arranging this album in its entirety. "Black Rainbow" has a simple eighth-note syncopation that builds and builds until it finally erupts into a 1 1/2 minute evil freakout that will absolutely blow your mind! On "Just the Same but Brand New," her vocals are a side note to the stunning composition that is going on around her. That's made all the more impressive when you consider that the lyrics on the song are one of the album's best!

As far as songs on the album that are "bad," there are none (just like last time), but there are a few that just don't do it for me. "Save Me From What I Want" has a really cool bass and drum line, but the chorus is lacking in everything an effective hook needs. Likewise "The Sequel," while beautifully composed, has forgettable vocals and is too fleeting to not be skipped over, while "The Party" starts out well enough but squanders it on a 2-minute outro that is neither interesting nor necessary. The thing you'll notice about all three of those critiques is that each of them has something positive to say about the song, as well as negative. That's the thing about Actor. For every moment that may feel misguided or flat, there's something that either completely negates it or takes your mind off of it. So even on songs that aren't my favorites, there are still things that I like about it, that keep me coming back. Who knows, maybe a month from now I will have listened to them enough to see them in a different light.

I once read an interview with Annie, describing the process of making Marry Me. She described it as a long process; a collection of songs written, rewritten, tweaked, and polished over the course of several years until it was perfect. It was that "first" album that every great artist makes. The challenge, of course, is following it up with something as deserving of praise and admiration. Actor is that album. Annie Clark has been careful to make a record that doesn't just pick up where she left off. Here, she blazes a new trail; one that is not as strong as its predecessor, but still full of beauty, darkness, and wonder. Actor is an album that will not soon be forgotten or pushed aside. It is something that will leave an impression long after the last note fades out. In that way, I suppose it's much like Marry Me.

Key Tracks:
1. "Actor Out of Work"
2. "Black Rainbow"
3. "Laughing With a Mouth of Blood"
4. "Marrow"
5. "Just the Same but Brand New"

7 out of 10 Stars
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'll Marry "Actor" Too, May 15, 2009
This review is from: Actor (Audio CD)
When I heard Marry Me in '07, I was blown away. With one album, Annie Clark/St. Vincent became one of my treasured musical goddesses, along with Tori, Fiona and PJ. So you know where my tastes run, if I had to pick my gods, I'd go with Bowie, Radiohead and Prince. I knew this girl was special. I was heartened too, because my artists are getting older, and I was afraid I'd be stuck in an audial time loop, listening to the same outdated classics like my parents. Thirty here I come!

I looked forward to Actor for months. At first listen, I admit, I was a bit letdown. "The Strangers" was great: epic, cryptic, hypnotic, comparable to "Now, Now" from Marry Me. "Actor out of Work" got lodged in my head before the two and a half minutes were up. None of other songs grabbed my attention. After I played the album a few times, "Save me from What I Want," became my new favorite. The lyrics were deceptively deep and aching, like nothing on Marry Me. Then, I think it was "The Party." It didn't take long before I fell in love, again, with Annie/St. Vincent. As good as Marry Me is, Actor is ultimately more addictive, more compelling and more satisfying.

If I have one complaint about Marry Me, it's that the songs leave me somewhat cold. They're clever, fascinating, lovely. But I don't feel a strong connection with the artist because none of it seems particularly genuine. It's ironic that, on "Actor," I empathize with her despair, by far, the prevalent sentiment. Perhaps, Annie Clark is only comfortable exposing her soul while symbolically affecting an actor's part. For example, the bitterness in "Actor out of Work" is more jarring than in the intentionally harsh "Your Lips are Red" off Marry Me. I love "Paris is Burning," but "Black Rainbow" just hits me like a punch in the gut, when she sings lines such as "Let the children act like furniture/for the ladies of the lawn."

I didn't realize, at first, how dark this album is. It sounds so pretty, the instrumentation, her voice, fragile and angelic. It allures to devastate. Marry Me had the same affect. And, Marry Me is as seductive to the ears, perhaps more so. But once you get into Actor, you can't shake it off. When the lyrics are unabashedly twisted, as in "The Bed," "Stop right where you stand/ We need a chalk outline if you can," I don't smirk. I shudder. This album feels like a true work of art, from a captivating artist.

Actor is highly recommended. It's my favorite album of the year so far. But be warned, Annie Clark/St. Vincent is a sneaky one. If you've listened to her before, you know what I mean. It's not only that her songs grow on you like fungus. Her often deranged lyrics will work their way into your subconscious. All of a sudden, you'll be in the shower singing, "I'm crawling through landmines..." Oh well. Let the desolation overtake me. To quote "The Strangers:" "Paint the black hole blacker."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely stunning, May 13, 2009
This review is from: Actor (Audio CD)
I haven't been this enthused about an album in a long time! This is an amazing artist at the very top of her game.

Her voice, as another reviewer noted, is instantly classic. She doesn't take any cheap shots, there are no unnecessary flourishes. With her voice, she is "letting the hammer do the work" in that she's only allowing the best of what's naturally there to come forth, and she does it with aplomb.

Just about every track on this is a gem. This is one that can just be put on repeat. There are 'bitter' moments in some tracks, but like hops in a good brew, they are perfectly balanced by malty sweetness.

The string arrangements are haunting and memorable. The production is tight as can be, the bass clean and polished, and each track comes across with a feeling of space, warmth and depth. The lyrics fit perfectly with the music. I honestly can't think of anything about this album to criticize at this point. I'm on my 30th listen or so, and everything I initially thought was a rough edge has melted away, explained by all that surrounds it.

The songwriting simply couldn't be better. I'd give a breakdown of each, but what's the point? This is something you really need to appreciate from beginning to end. Finally, an album that sounds like an album again. I'm stoked!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A journey worth taking, May 6, 2009
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This review is from: Actor (Audio CD)
I had to give this record a second and third listen to get through its hermetically built composition. Do not get me wrong, after loving Animal Collective and Burial in all their deconstructive beauty I thought St. Vincent, a.k.a. Annie Clark, posed no different challenge but I was mistaken.

Actor is a record that needs to be listened on a mood. An open hearted mood that is. Masked behind a facade of pristine neatness, like the cover art would suggest, hide the richly constructed layers of music and revolting lyrics that yearn to be digested by parts. Annie's voice remains ia happy medium throughout the record, what in other circumstances would be a tedious noise here serves as an additional tool that keeps the dramatic arrangements glued together.

That's how Black rainbow never loses direction with the grandiose climax towards the end or The strangers achieves its goal of giving just a peek of what's in store. If there are any straight forward rock tracks they are lead single Actor out of work with its intense guitars and radio friendly structure, and the entrancing slow number The sequel.

Clark still indulges in showing how many instruments she is able to squeeze effectively into one song but compared to Marry me the effort sounds more focused this time. One can find it all, from classical to dubbed arrangements, and the genres explored as varied as the topics she boards with swift confidence. The result is not an immediate love affair nor is it an impossible task to overcome.

The best way to immerse yourself into it would be becoming an actor, just like she does, and soak in the ethereal with the electronic, the affection with the rage, the dream with the reality. While most of the times I try to connect the dots and find a reflection of what I experience in music, this time I put on the acting hat and visualized through her eyes the determination to become something I am not, the fear of acting on my true desires, the sensation of being trap in a life I do not want and the urge to escape, the complicated nature of womanhood. Anybody remembers that picture perfect cover?

In a year that has not even reached its middle point this record is one of the highlights and a strong contender for that premium list that will be remembered as a step forward from its predecessor.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Equally thrilling second album, June 22, 2009
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This review is from: Actor (Audio CD)
Annie Clark, the one-woman band behind St. Vincent, released a delightful debut album in 2007, "Marry Me", one of the most pleasant and impressive albums, period, in 2007. Now comes the highly anticipated follow-up album.

"Actor" (11 tracks; 39 min.) continues on, and expands, the eclectic sounds of the debut album. Clark throws in all kinds of mixes and influences on this album: rock, jazz, electronic and classical, it's all hear. The opener ""The Strangers" starts things off quietly, only to then dive in with a hard-charging "Save Me From What I Want". The single "Actor Out Of Work" is as mainstream and accessible (rock) as St. Vincent has ever been (and had commercial radio any life-pulse left, this would be played, but alas...). Other highlights include the gentle sounding but biting hard lyrics "Laughing With a Mouth of Blood", and the closing two tracks: the epic "Just the Same But Brand New" ( at 5+ min. the longest track here) and the short "The Sequel", which sounds open-ended and summarizes the album nicely, inviting us for the next serving of St. Vincent.

In all, this album is as equally good, if not better, than "Marry Me". If you like indie-rock, you surely will not be disappointed by this. I've seen St. Vincent in concert a number of times, most recently just last weekend at the Bonnaroo music festival, and each time I see her, she sounds better and better live. Finally, if you wonder where you might hear St. Vincent, check out WOXY (BAM! The Future of Rock and Roll), the internet-only station that plays the best indie-music in the country, bar none.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A TALENT TO WATCH BUT A STEP DOWN FROM HER FIRST ALBUM, September 10, 2009
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This review is from: Actor (Audio CD)
This, the second album by versatile songwriter-lyricist-vocalist-instrumentalist Annie Clark, has all the virtues of her first album, Marry Me. The lyrics are smart, the melodies compelling, harmonies and backing interesting and original throughout. Clark has an interesting musical mind. Her songs abound in unexpected twists and hooks. The lyrics and melodies dig into your mind and linger there long after you've listened to them. And all the songs on her album are worth listening to. It's not a case of one or two good ones and a lot of filler. But I don't enjoy this album anywhere near as much as I did Marry Me, which I thought was one of the best albums -pop or otherwise--that I heard that year. The problem with Actor is the drums. There's too much of them and too often. Tracks 1 through 9 are driven by propulsive, often monotonous beats -sometimes echoing disco- and while they all fit, and form rhythmic counterparts to her quirky melodies and lyrics, over nine straight tracks they beat me down. It's too much, too monotonous. Her songs snake along sinuously and the drums --instead of catching her tricky ways with rhythm and accent in the songs themselves-- thump, thump, thump, thump along. It's a relief to hit Tracks 10 and 11: "Just the Same But Brand New" and "The Sequel," because the thump, thump is gone. Annie Clark is a true musical talent. This is a good album but it could have been better and she's good enough that it should have been.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Talented, unusual and very interesting, April 2, 2011
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This review is from: Actor (Audio CD)
St. Vincent music is challenging, in a good way. If you are a fan of music that makes you think and is edgy, St. Vincent will be a pleasure to listen too. While it's not fair to compare the music, let me just say that I am a fan of Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Porcupine Tree (I like all kinds of music as well) so that's where the thinking part come in. There are some quiet moments, aggressive moments and nothing on this record is less than interesting. I like it lots.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars buy it!, March 9, 2011
By 
mike (Peshtigo, WI) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Actor (Audio CD)
I cannot comment on the differences between the first album and this one because i haven't heard the first yet, but i really do like this one. i usually like weird and by looking at the covers of her albums you can tell that she'll be a bit different than katy beiber or whatever vileness 80% of others listen to. im going to trust that people looking at st. vincent are not mainstream. this is great. now take the next step and check this lady out.
i cannot come up with anyone that she sounds like.

st. vincent is certified completely fresh.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely voice, lovely music, January 7, 2010
This review is from: Actor (Audio CD)
"Actor" is my first exposure to St. Vincent, but it won't be my last. Although this isn't the type of music I typically listen to, I've enjoyed the CD immensely. There is something to be said for a singer-songwriter with a nice voice who can write witty, carefully crafted songs in a variety of styles. Sometimes with this sort of thing, we get little in the way of variety, but not so on "Actor"; the texture changes with each song, each new track surprising and somehow unexpected, but familiar at the same time.

I am particularly impressed with St. Vincent's writing and arranging skills. There is almost always someone helping to either write, produce, or arrange in the background, but this is genuinely the product of a singular artist. Given the textural variety on the album as a whole, I think it's quite an achievement.

I can easily recommend this to anyone who appreciates quality music, beautiful in its simplicity, but with careful attention to detail and craftsmanship. I'm giving it my highest endorsement possible: I'm buying her first album, "Merry Me."
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Actor
Actor by St. Vincent (Audio CD - 2009)
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