I heard this song on an All Songs Considered podcast last week and I just had to hear more. It’s called “The Strangers” by St. Vincent.
The album, Actor, doesn’t come out until Tuesday, but NPR has been streaming it for a while now (here). I’m guessing it won’t be available after Tuesday, so hurry up and go listen. You won’t be sorry. Unless, of course, you have crappy taste in music.
St. Vincent’s frontwoman is Annie Clark, a multi-instrumentalist who has played with the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan. Her guitar work on Actor is cool. The album is tight, varied, perfectly brief at 39 minutes, and in a word, awesome. Clark has a really pretty, rich, almost Karen Carpenter-ish alto voice. She would make a perfectly pleasant singer songwriter but there’s a slightly sinister hard edge to the music and lyrics that provide a counterpoint to her pretty voice and make Actor really interesting throughout. Besides the impeccable songcraft, Actor‘s greatest strength is the dense, rich and varied sonics. Clark’s voice and the driving percussion are often in the foreground of the mix, with occasional blasts of guitar and horns. In the background is a lot of electronically distorted, reverb-soaked choirs of Clark’s own voice or another weird male voice, as well as other effective atmospherics. Some songs have a Sufjan-like woodwind section that, besides reminding me again that the dude is due for a new album, make those songs that much fuller. Sonically, this is an album that rewards loud and careful listening.
Here is “Actor out of Work,” the first single from the album. It’s an example of Actor at it’s poppiest. There are a couple others like this with infectious melodies that won’t let you go.
I haven’t been exploring new music very much lately and I haven’t been real excited by a new album in a while. But Actor is such a find and has so captured my imagination that it makes me want to go exploring again in the hopes of finding more gems like this. I think I’ll start with St. Vincent’s first album.