Tue May 12 2009
Photograph: Annabel Mehran
Webster Hall; Wed 20
Not only does Annie Clarke look like an old-fashioned Disney princess—huge blinking eyes, rosebud mouth—but she sings like one, too. If there’s ever a remake of Snow White, Clarke’s would be the voice singing “I’m Wishing.” But just don’t let her sing one of her own songs in it. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the intricate orchestral and electronic compositions on Actor, the second album Sufjan Stevens collaborator Clarke has issued under the St. Vincent moniker. But titles like “Black Rainbow” and “Laughing with a Mouthful of Blood” might not go down so well with the Gummi-bear crowd.
Of course, the way Clarke pulls together two seemingly antithetical elements—prettiness and dark, thorny, scary things—is precisely what makes her music interesting and gives it bite (so to speak). “The Bed,” for instance, finds two little children ready for bed, holding an intruder at gunpoint; dreamily, Clarke sings, “Don’t scream or we will have to shoot.”
But for all its interest, Actor has a rather detached feel. Clarke recently said that she wrote the music for each of its songs as alternative soundtracks to some of her favorite films; this accounts for the fact that the music feels so visual, if not for its disconcerting coldness. Onstage, Clarke is known to lose the froideur, knocking out wicked-fast fuzzy guitar licks and bantering with the audience. Still, it’s an odd combination—the darkness pure wicked Queen, the delivery all Snow White.—Sophie Harris