St. Vincent Writes Essay Reflecting on Actor’s 10-Year Anniversary
St. Vincent’s sophomore album Actor turned 10 last Saturday. In honor of the anniversary, Annie Clark has published an essay reflecting on the project. The piece offers a uniquely detailed look at the album’s musical inspirations (Talk Talk, Tones on Tail, Suicide, the Ramones, Iggy Pop) and process, as well as charming insight into Clark’s relationship with the music a decade later.
Revelations include that Clark started working on Actor with an unnamed producer whom she now describes as an “abusive father figure” and an “idealist-cum-emotional-fascist.” She broke off the relationship and completed the album with producer John Congleton, with whom she has worked on every St. Vincent album since.
I remember having deep and lengthy conversations about 80’s 4AD and Tones on Tail and late Scott Walker records (the Mussolini and beating meat stuff!) with a producer whose work I admired and decided to work with and who convinced me to work on tape.
Turns out, neither of us really knew how to work on tape. Me, being of the burgeoning DIY digital generation with songs a work in progress, used to moving all the puzzle pieces around and he, having no patience for anything that wasn’t his burgeoning polyamorous marriage or recreating Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock. (Genius record and reference. But likely not made with an abusive father figure LITERALLY directing Mark Hollis’s every move.)
Clark goes on to write that she has not listened to Actor in quite some time and learned of its anniversary from the internet. She offers an amusing and relatable analogy for the act of revisiting old creative work:
I have always likened listening to older work to looking at junior high year book photos. If one is lucky, one can muster compassion for one’s younger self. Recognize that time is elastic. Notes are elastic. Lyrics elastic. Could have been anything. Any songs, any ideas at all, anyone at that time. But it was those songs and those ideas and that process and that person. And I am (humbly) proud of it.
The essay also includes the story of how Clark wrote “Actor out of Work” in her childhood bedroom, jokes about beanbag chairs, meditations on the elasticity of time, and more. You can read Spin’s original Actor review here and Clark’s full essay here.