“It’s music inspired by Disney films.” — Annie Clark on her new album, Actor (recorded as St. Vincent)

“One would hardly expect the phrase ‘Technicolor Disney nightmare’ to become an overused idiom anytime soon, but it’s a good bet you’ll see some iteration of it, written or otherwise, in just about every reference to this album.” — No Ripcord

“if it sounds a bit like the kind of dark, violent fairy tale Disney might have made had they not strayed so far from their Grimm roots, well, that’s a pretty fair take on the album as a whole.” — The Hurst Review

“imagine Trent Reznor scoring an old Disney movie—princesses and demons battling in a swirl of distorted synth noises, orchestral strings and pianos.” — Culture Bully

“Marrow is the perfect mix of Disney musical meets rock n’ roll.” — Sputnik Music

“The sophomore album from St. Vincent employs a cacaphony of sounds to create its Grimms brothers atmosphere. And indeed, Clark even looks like a Disney heroine.” — AOL Music

“The way that Clark’s trilling voice delivers melodies that skip and soars overtop richly-appointed arrangements, you could imagine these songs soundtracking any animated Disney film” — Chromewaves

“Estas canciones nacen como un score imaginario para escenas de cintas como Badlands, Picnic at Hanging Rock y algunos clásicos de Disney como La Bella Durmiente y La Dama y el Vagabundo.” — Flaming Milk

“And like a Disney flick, the tune has a happy ending, with a soothing mix of accordion, acoustic guitar, and skyward vocals. However, Michey Mouse [sic] probably won’t approve of Clark’s lyrics about ‘painting the black hole blacker,’ quarreling with a lover, and keeping secrets in a relationship. Oh, well.” — Spin

“Clark’s sweet vocals carry a tinge of malice, and set against the fanciful, dreamy arrangements, they often recall a golden-era Disney-villain.” — Tiny Mix Tapes

“Annie Clark may look like an animated Disney heroine sprung to life, and the influence of willowy, ethereal singers and songwriters such as Feist and Tori Amos is obvious.” — STNG

“The whole project at times seems Disney-ish in its aims, soaring with its whimsical orchestral arrangements and painting scenes that you really want to see brought to life in animation.” — Express Night Out

“‘The Stranger’, the ambulatory opening track of Actor, is indicative of St Vincent’s efforts: kitsch strings, reminiscent of 60’s easy listening or a mournful Disney soundtrack, give way to a storm of fuzzed-up guitar.” — Wireless Bollinger

“Even when the music is at its most dramatic, as when songs slip out of placid, Disney-esque string accompaniment into jagged, distorted guitar passages, Clark consistently understates her characters’ angst, and buries their negative emotions under layers of denial, stoicism, and subservience to the desire of others.” — Pitchfork

Okay, I like this one: “The fantasy of Disney is juxtaposed with the sweep of Morricone, David Mamet’s unsettling dramatic form and the alienation of Philip Roth.” — Music Remedy

5 Responses to “Why I don’t read (or write) music reviews”

  1. For the record, I trust the tastes of several of these writers, and if Frank at Chromewaves or Josh at the Hurst Review tweets, “This album {that Darren has never heard of} is amazing! 9/10. Two thumbs up,” I’ll be much more likely to check it out.

    After listening to Actor for the first time tonight and being blown away by it, I went looking for reviews, something I rarely do, and was surprised to find Disney referenced in every single post — surprised, mostly, because it never would have occurred to me to describe this record as Disney-ish or Disney-esque or Disney-inspired. The number of writers who compared Annie herself to Disney characters is especially strange.

    Writing well and imaginatively and with specificity about music is incredibly difficult, which is why I gave up trying years ago.


  2. Hey it’s my favorite game: Kevin Bacon separation meets sounds a lot like . . . When people gave us these type of reviews at KZSU we removed them from our review staff stat!


  3. Critics like to steal from one another – much like political pundits


  4. Sean, to me the real issue isn’t critics stealing from each other. My beef is with writers who all go through the same process before knocking out another quick review: they browse through the official press package from the artist (if one exists, and if they have access to it), then they read whatever recent interviews they can find, then they put on the album and skim through the lyrics.

    “Annie says the record is inspired by Disney? Excellent. There’s my lede. Now I don’t have to stare at a blank screen.”

    Like I said earlier, I think writing well about music is really hard. I guess I just wish more of the writing that’s out there showed evidence of an attentive and creative listener.


  5. I'm with you. There's really nothing like writing a music review to make me feel like a living, typing cliche.

    I tried my hand at one about a week ago (for the first time in years), and was absolutely unable to find anything inspired to say. I wasn't going through the motions– I didn't read other reviews or look for press releases. In fact, I couldn't find the lyrics anywhere so I really worked only from the what I was listening to and what I knew about the band prior to popping in the new album.

    I assumed it would be gratifying because I was literally forced to come up with a fresh approach, but my result still felt stale. It felt like a music review mad lib. "Track one is (adverb) (adjective)…. track two sounds like the bastard lovechild of (name of band) and (name on another band)."

    It was rough.


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