There is a shift that has happened in modern music, of how music is released. A focus on speed and constant content of singles in the streaming world. The art of tension and anticipation between releases has become an artform which has fallen by the wayside. In 2018 Actors released “It Will Come To You”. It captured the imagination of the scene which propelled them as a modern voice for a genre based in nostalgia. Three years later that title that won over new wave of Post Punk/Synth fans has come to ring all the more true. The slow gleaming trickle of singles leading to the promise of a sophomore album have fallen like individual raindrops on the thirsty tongues of their growing fanbase. The addition of a new bass player Kendall Wooding adds another element to the chemical reaction. The patient crafting of new songs which hold that emotional connection, while growing in complexity and range. The story of Actors has always been one of communication and relationships within the human experience. “Acts of Worship” elevates that connection to explore the spiritual macro concepts which bind us together.
Going to do something a little different for this review because I am so invested. A song by song breakdown of my impressions:
Love U More – A delicate symphonic intro that opens the curtain. Jason’s voice is sorrowful and and ripe with longing. The chorus is a perfect way to display this fresh sound of collaboration. A true harmony of individual styles. Shannon’s vocal’s fire forth with a confidence and balance that leaves you looking up to the sky. I love the clear heavy footed walk of the bass. The flickering electric street lights of the guitar lead. This track is here to set the scene. To re-introduce beloved characters and place them in a new adventure. The most striking aspect is how much the concept of the song feels uncharted. The genre is familiar. The style distinctly Actors. The texture and melody feels like the future. Something we have yet to hear.
Like Suicide – It can be hard to separate an artist from art. When people hear “The Joshua Tree” by U2 these days the first thing that pops to mind is a Bono joke. The impact that album had with it’s ballads in particular. A voice so dripping with mystery and unfettered passion. A romantic beauty in a time of consumerism. That lost concept is what stirs within me in this soul barring heart dancer. It’s a catchy croon that glows with soul. That place where what is pleasing to the ear and painful to the heart go to share the struggle and triumph of life.
Cold Eyes – A forceful driver of city lights blurring as a they pass by the passenger window. Love this overlapping guitar part between muted crunch and crackling lead. The singing has a voices in your head surrealism. A hallucination effect that leaves you questioning what is real. I think this song has a classic Actors feel which helps connect “Acts of Worship” to “It Will Come To you”. This is the preservation of continuity song.
Obsession – This song felt personal for me. We all have felt this isolated time to dwell on people or things we are missing. Swirling shadows in the water, violet hues and reflected neon light. Jason’s voice takes on that airy Ian McCulloch beauty. Letting you sink within your own destructive thoughts and lose yourself between the water and the mist. One of the deepest most revealing moments of honesty. This song in particular felt like a real look behind the bands eyes.
Death From Above – What a glorious tone shift. I found myself transported like a World War 2 fighter pilot blazing towards a synthwave animated landscape. The hook and harmony of this track is captivating. The strong down strike percussion that personifies the aerial assault. The record player effect of the vocals enhanced the vintage feel to create a sharp contrast against the digital soul of the music.
Killing Time – Strong opening of magnetic fuzz on the guitars. The shifting polarities kept me bouncing around the room. The last two years has seen time slipping past us. Days bleed together and we need to force ourselves into these moments. I love the tension breaking shouts of “Hey” to stir a unity and freeze frame. An anthem to stop the push and pull of life and hold us in this moment until the pull sends us back into a volley. I am impressed by the ambition of this track. It pulls off the difficult task of complexity without sounding complex.
Only Lonely – The bouncing funky bass line of this track has huge John Taylor emotions. Jason swings into a husky whisper on vocals. A secret that pulls you in and sets you up for the call and answer chorus. A much brighter and meringue peaked dessert tone. The lyrics still deliver a pang of longing to add shape and depth to one of the most tender fashion walk singles on the album.
Strangers – Another engulfing single on an album full of singles. Strangers hits on all cylinders. The lyrics paint a picture in beautifully blended water colors. The music is that razors edge of expansive synthetic beauty and sizzling rock energy. I feel like this is Jason’s strongest vocal performance. Utilizing everything he does well at it’s highest peak. It is decisive, emotional, and resonates with a concept which relates and challenges. This is the type of powerful track lost in the modern age full of poetry and delivery. A true modern classic. My top track on a top album.
End of the World – A nice tension building intro for a cosmic journey watching the world grow small. The radio announcer crackle effect on the vocals creates weight and acceptance of a world slipping away. That progressive keyboard line pushes to center stage and sets the tone of emotional longing for La petite mort. As life hurtles towards uncertainty we take a journey of acceptance. This was one of the most musically powerful tracks. A haunting tone of post apocalyptic hope in a desolate moment.
Once More With Feeling – The ending of a journey of one of the most complete records of the modern era. To say it leaned into the epic and expansive is an understatement. This song has a true OK Computer emotional range and scope. We have witnessed the end of the world, but are left with a resurrection and resilience. To push on, to survive while towers of magma shoot into the sky of a new world. I love that instead of going out on a single, instead we are played out into a promise of future adventure. A glimpse on the horizon of a world to come.
“Acts of Worship” Is going to change the standard. Rather than think of it as an album out of time. Hear it as the type of puncturing emotional thought pieces we talk about as nostalgia from a previous era. I choose to see the hope it promises. To be a place where those that remember the past, and those that are blazing new ground in the future meet. Where they say this was the moment where the music we talk about twenty years from now with a new generation is remembered. It’s a powerful feeling that you can be apart of now.