Annie Clark has a sweet, gentle voice and perfect bone structure. So you might shrug her off as another boring acoustic act trying to break into the Top 40. But the woman behind the nom de plume St. Vincent is not making simple tunes with throwaway choruses. She takes traditional beauty and smashes it to the ground with ferociously angry synthesizer and irregular chord progressions. Haunting vocals and twisted lyrics accompany song titles with equally ominous imagery. "The Strangers" plays like the score of an artsy French film, with a mess of garage-rock threaded artfully through it; menacing lyrics like "Desperate don't look good on you/Neither does your virtue" appear harsh on paper but sound positively gorgeous. "Black Rainbow" is Actor's musical climax, with a charming flute-filled intro that leads to a mischievous peak of violent crunching and distortion. Clark co-produced the album, wrote and arranged all the songs, and played guitar, bass and keys, so she had complete control over its content. She said she wanted the album to take people on "technicolor animatronic rides." Mission accomplished.— Danielle Sills
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