St. Vincent

Actor (4AD)

Phases & Stages

St. Vincent

Actor (4AD)

Over smoky piano standout "The Party," Annie Clark purrs: "I lick the ice cube from your empty glass. Oh, we stayed much too late, 'til they're cleaning the ashtrays." Meanwhile, she keeps an "eye on the exit sign, steady now." As on her 2007 debut, Marry Me, the former Texan is looking for a way out of her song, though she makes interesting conversation while there. Her second album is less precious, something attributed to either maturity or a better grasp of the script. Opener "The Strangers" gathers black cloud cover, following Clark through swatches of electronic colors until she finally lets her guitar do the screaming. Smooth jam "Laughing With a Mouth of Blood" disorients over dreamy instrumentation ("Just like an amnesiac, trying to get my senses back"), a pairing that informs much of Actor. The 1980s electro-thump of "Actor Out of Work" and "Marrow" beef up the disc's more domestic fare, the latter evoking Prince. A few songs could slim down, but the star gets in and out of her dream sequences seamlessly, already thinking of her next line.

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