Summer Round-up: Reviews in Brief
Annie Clark’s singing has always been the calm little center of the storm, and that’s especially true on the new St. Vincent album, Actor, where her serene vocals work in direct contrast to the dark and sometimes aggressive musical arrangements. This trick is only successful on a cerebral level, however, and many of the songs could have used some more lung-power to give them the edge they really needed. The lead single “Actor out of Work” begs for your attention, but “Laughing with a Mouth of Blood” is the track that actually deserves repeat listens despite its slightly limp execution. The 90s electronica-tinged “Save Me from What I Want” and “Marrow” are essentially the same song — and both songs are essentially Bjork’s “Alarm Call” from Homogenic. Actor is more focused and consistent than Marry Me, but Clark could have used a little more of her debut’s daring streak.
While everyone else (read: Pitchfork) is going ga-ga for “Stillness is the Move” from the new Dirty Projectors release Bitte Orca, I find the first track, “Cannibal Resource” to be more satisfying with its tripping rhythms and sleek choral arrangements. Also, as much as people make a big deal over Longstreth’s “divisive” singing voice, I’m far more interested in the insistent, sometimes unnerving harmonies of the female vocalists. The gorgeous, folksy “Two Doves” is a highlight, although it sounds like a transplant from an entirely different album. The first five or six songs make a strong argument for Bitte Orca as a great record, but the final three aren’t nearly as distinctive as everything that comes before.
There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said about Jason Lytle’s solo debut, Yours Truly, the Commuter: it sounds exactly like Lytle’s former band Grandaddy, and there aren’t any surprises from song to song, etc. All of the familiar sounds are here — hushed vocals over hazy strumming and warm fuzzed-out bass lines. Those complaints aside, for anyone who likes Grandaddy’s sound, this is a pretty solid piece of work from top to bottom. Highlights include the opening/title track and “Brand New Sun,” which is as lovely a pop song as Lytle’s ever produced, and the slightly more upbeat “It’s the Weekend.” It’s hard to imagine this album making any sort of impact in the long-run, but for now, it creates a good atmosphere.