Reviews: St. Vincent, "Actor"; Peaches, "I Feel Cream"

May 5, 2009


St. Vincent, "Actor"

Annie Clark may look like an animated Disney heroine sprung to life, and the influence of willowy, ethereal singers and songwriters such as Feist and Tori Amos is obvious. But first impressions can be deceptive: There are streaks of violence and perversity running through all of the 27-year-old Texan's work as St. Vincent, and the orchestrated loveliness is liable to give way to a dissonant eruption at any time.

"We're sleeping underneath the bed/To scare the monsters out," Clark sings in "The Bed," one of many surprising moments on the follow-up to "Marry Me," her much-buzzed 2007 debut. "With our dear daddy's Smith and Wesson/We've gotta teach them all a lesson."

A veteran of the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens' touring ensemble, Clark has said she set out to create a "Technicolor animatronic ride," and that the album began when "the little seed to every song was envisioned as a film score." Playing most of the instruments herself (with the most notable assist coming from the rhythm section of indie-rockers Midlake), the artist creates a seamless blend of genres uniquely her own, and excluding a few lapses into overly precious artiness, she succeeds swimmingly.


Peaches, "I Feel Cream"

Since she burst onto the scene nearly a decade ago with "The Teaches of Peaches," Canadian electroclash artist and perverse provocateur Merrill Nisker has achieved an influence far beyond her album sales: She's collaborated with Pink, Iggy Pop and Joan Jett, her praises have been sung by the likes of Madonna and Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga has pretty much ripped off her entire act, blanding it out in the process. But at age 40, with five albums to her credit, Nisker/Peaches can still shock anyone who tries to pigeonhole her.

"Never a straight line--serpentine," the artist sings on the opening track here, and the twist this time is that she downplays the sexual outrage to focus on her singing and the throbbing minimalist dance grooves crafted with Gonzales and Simian Mobile Disco. This isn't to say that Peaches has cleaned up her dirty mind or her potty mouth: "Never go to bed without a piece of raw meat," she advises at one point. But the real thrills come from hearing her peel back the curtain to analyze and joke about her own image ("Show Stopper," "Serpentine") and to confess her feelings about aging and consider her place in a list of famous "cougars" reaching back to Mae West ("Mommy Complex").