Journal of Ardency EP
Brooklyn singer/songwriter Elizabeth Harper was writing tunes on guitar by default rather than design when a remix by Philadelphia producer Mark Richardson stumbled upon the electronic pop sound she’d always longed to make. The duo joined with Scott Rosenthal to continue in that vein under the posh moniker Class Actress. Clear and nimble, Harper’s voice is the star of the group’s debut EP, a solid five-song collection of graceful neo-new wave pop called Journal of Ardency. (It’s one of the first releases by Terrible Records, the brand-new label run by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor.) Opener “Adolescent Heart” plants the worry that Harper might be outpacing her accompaniment still. Her clean singing nudges blank Coldplay keys towards a place more adult-contemporary than adolescent. As the beat picks up, the EP follows. Bright 80s synths glide “Careful What You Say” to its sweetly somber Human League-channeling coda. “Let Me Take You Out” betters Chairlift for breeziness, and later, “Someone Real” flirts with old-school radio bubblegum before intensifying into increasingly ominous electro.
It’s the title track that’s the capital-J Jam, though. The stiffly titled “Journal of Ardency” is likely the best dance-pop track yet to come from New York (or anywhere) in this young decade. A sampled thump fully commits to the dancefloor, the synth temperature drops a few tasteful degrees. Harper’s vocal doesn’t so much float above the track as permeate it, lubricating its gears so it can sleekly rush by. “You think I’m livin’ it, livin’ it, livin’ it, livin’ it up/ in the spotlight./ You think I’m livin’ it, livin’ it, livin’ it, livin’ it up/ it’s a lie, lie,” she sings in a liquid sigh, sounding glamorous enough that the confusion was probably unavoidable. The sound doesn’t develop many structural twists, though it sounded sort of perfect to begin with. Journal of Ardency in general, and “Journal of Ardency” in specific, bode well for a Class Actress full-length, which supposedly already lies in wait. Harper’s voice is incredibly appealing, outclassing sub-par compositions and elevating good ones. And why would they be holding back a batch of the former?