Class Actress is here to show you that not all electropop is created equal, even though it often sounds that way. And it could be that this Brooklyn trio makes distinctive electropop in part because the songs come to life in a distinctive way—front woman Elizabeth Harper writes them non-electronically, on a piano or a guitar. When she’s done, she gives the song to band mate Mark Richardson, who does all sorts of magical laptop-y things to it. But Harper aims to be writing songs, not beats or (god forbid) jams. (Can we stop calling songs “jams” now by the way? Pretty please?) She has been quoted as saying that if a song can pass “the campfire test”—i.e., can be played on an acoustic guitar, anywhere—then it’s a good song. I for one wouldn’t argue with her.
So right away you can listen here to how the beat is not the song’s centerpiece. This is a refreshing turn of events. The introduction is succinct and asymmetrical; at 0:11 the singing starts, and we still haven’t sunk into the song’s groove, which, when it kicks in, kicks in with space and syncopation rather than a wash of lock-step rhythm. Note how Harper isn’t singing against a monochromatic electronic field but alternately purrs and emotes against a disciplined blend of sounds. The one I really like is the synth we hear during the instrumental break beginning at 1:49—a witty, multi-dimensional electronic tone playing a stuttery melody for maybe 10 seconds and that’s it, on we go. It’s unusual and enticing.
As a singer, Harper is both sultry and elastic; to my ears, it’s her vocal leap in the chorus that provides the cementing hook, her voice in its upper range becoming more instrument than narrator. “I want to keep you in my”—what, exactly? Lyric sites say “heart,” but the word is so indistinct it offers the hint of “arms” as well. The lyrical tag, “Ooh, I want it, I want it,” also emerges more as a moan than a clear statement, and I like that there, I like how it anchors the song in an effectually wordless melody right in the center of things.
“Keep You” has been floating around the internet since early summer, but it is in fact the lead track from Class Actress’s debut full-length album, Rapprocher, which will arrive next month on Carpark Records. Rapprocher is a French verb meaning “to come close to.” Class Actress was featured previously on Fingertips in November 2009. MP3 via Pitchfork.