Album Review

St. Vincent, 'Actor'

May 4, 2009
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Indie Pop
St. Vincent Actor
ESSENTIAL "Actor Out of Work"
St. Vincent performs at the Somerville Theatre May 19.

St. Vincent is Annie Clark, an adventurous indie sprite endowed with imagination and chops. She's a veteran of the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens's band, and the guiding principle in her short but so far scintillating solo career has been something along the lines of a musical blender. On "Marry Me," her 2007 debut, she made elegant mincemeat of distorted electric guitars, intricate chamber pop, quirky programming, and lush cabaret. Clark's new album is similarly expansive but more focused. The 11 tracks on "Actor" are of a piece: They draw on a grand sonic palette but are tethered by a refined, cinematic singleness of purpose. Clark's process, according to press materials, involved screening her favorite movies - among them "Badlands," "The Wizard of Oz," "Stardust Memories," and "Sleeping Beauty" - and starting each song as "a secret film score." Vibrant and whimsical, delicate and abrasive, dark and lovely, these elliptical songs play like impressionistic shorts about "The Strangers," "The Neighbors," "The Bed," and "The Party." You won't glean much more about those people and places than you knew going in, but Clark's strange angles and fanciful settings pack a visceral punch. (Out tomorrow) JOAN ANDERMAN