Rich and almost impossibly lush, Annie Clark’s second full-length album as St. Vincent, Actor, continues the vibrant precocity of her first, exhibiting a boundless, startling creativity that still manages to be repeatedly surprising. Clark tellingly cites Prince as an influence, which initially seems strange, but which captures the album’s ear for deeply textural sound, its imaginative restlessness, and ability to change focus on a dime. But also included are echoes of former collaborators from Clark’s earlier, if still recent, days as a backing musician, though always with a knowing twist: there’s the dreamy expansiveness of the Polyphonic Spree without the silly gimmickry, and hints of Sufjan Stevens’s baroque compositions, but free from precious daintiness. Actor expands on these styles, adding dashes of Kate Bush and the musical theater inclinations of recent Fiona Apple, on glowing, shimmery songs like “Black Rainbow” and “Marrow.” Opener “The Strangers” possesses a misty and involving tone, setting the scene for later material, which plunges unpredictably into open spaces. Each song is expansively and ornately detailed. “Save Me from What I Want” rings beautifully, with Clark’s voice garnished with her own backing vocals. Her voice seems small and fragile, but it’s her most effective instrument, and it affixes a tight lynchpin to the album’s broadly creative themes, leaving it glistening with ghostly elegance.
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