MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Finally, this hour, music that's been generating buzz most recently this spring at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.
(Soundbite of song "Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood")
Ms. ANNIE CLARK (Singer): (Singing) Just like an amnesiac trying to get my senses back. Laughing with a mouth of blood from a little spill I took.
NORRIS: That's Annie Clark. She records under the name St. Vincent. She's just released her new album, called "Actor," and Tom Moon has this review.
TOM MOON: St. Vincent started work on her new album, "Actor," with a simple goal: to break out of the songwriting patterns she'd developed over years writing on guitar and piano. She fired up her computer, but she didn't plug in any of her instruments. Instead, she drew outlines of melodies in a software program, pointing and clicking as though working on a spreadsheet.
(Soundbite of song "Save Me From What I Want")
Ms. CLARK: (Singing) Keys are in my pocket and they rattle you away. Seventh floor apartment and a fiery escape.
MOON: This approach opened up possibilities, she says. Rather than thinking in terms of bite-sized pop hooks, St. Vincent let her melodies wander. They grew weirder and less symmetrical.
(Soundbite of song "Neighbors")
Ms. CLARK: (Singing) Let's pour wine in coffee cups, warble 'round the neighborhood, and shine the headlights on houses until all the news is good. What would your mother say? What would your father do? What would the neighbors think...
MOON: St. Vincent surrounds these melodies with gorgeous orchestrations. Each of her songs lives in its own surreal sonic wonderland where violins and clarinets and French horns can be as prominent as the guitars. After dreaming these up on computer, she eventually recorded them with live musicians.
(Soundbite of song "The Sequel")
Ms. CLARK: (Singing) Oh, honey. I was there in the dark where you lay. And I saw you with a scent on your hands going out to get you something.
MOON: St. Vincent says as she went along, she grew bolder. She'd start a tune in an atmosphere of sweetness and light, conjuring the harmonies of a '60s girl group or the whimsical sounds associated with Disney animated films like "Snow White."
(Soundbite of song "The Strangers")
Ms. CLARK: (Singing) Lover I don't play to win, but for the thrill until I'm spent. Paint the black hole blacker. Paint the black hole blacker. I threw flowers in your face on my sister's wedding day. Paint the black hole blacker. Paint the black hole blacker.
MOON: Then, after a few verses, she'd change the weather by introducing harsh, almost violent electric guitar dissonance.
(Soundbite of music)
MOON: Listening to these dark and brilliant songs, I keep thinking about the creative process and how sometimes just one change of method can trigger all kinds of unexpected possibilities. St. Vincent started out with a specific challenge, to write songs in different ways, and that led her to this grand and entirely fresh sound.
(Soundbite of music)
NORRIS: Our reviewer is Tom Moon. The latest album from St. Vincent is called "Actor." At nprmusic.org, you can hear songs from the album and watch a video of St. Vincent.
(Soundbite of song, "Black Rainbow")
Ms. CLARK: (Singing) …above my house. Match the curtains and floors.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
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