Two years after she broke out from under the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens' collective thumb with Marry Me, Annie Clark, a.k.a.
Like Marry Me, Actor’s first half is easily the better part. It takes the ominous sound of “Your Lips are Red” from the first record and plays with it more. Album opener “The Strangers” kicks off with a steady 4/4 beat dance beat,
The hits keep coming with lead single “Actor Out of Work,” with its propulsive, thundering floor tom and electro synth bits. “Black Rainbow” takes an awkward shift, killing the record’s momentum by rehashing Marry Me’s more plaintive/hopeful dichotomy – think of that record’s title track for the sort of pretty orchestral moments I’m talking about. The slow-building song has payoff similar to “The Strangers,” and is a well-placed left turn overall.
Actor’s second half is generally less immediate, but no less pleasing given time. “Marrow” is the standout, encapsulating every the record tries to do over 39 minutes in three-and-a-half. Orchestral opening, haunting vocals, electro-bluster stomp, pulsing guitar work, and pretty pop moments are all here. “The Bed” tries a different form of dissonance – squealing string instruments, in a controlled John Cage experiment. The final three tracks gradually, gently close the record out.