Alexander Savior, The Archer (30th Century Records)
One of the most tired descriptors in music criticism, “cinematic” is right up there with “angular” and “lush” on the trash heap of words awaiting hopeful incineration. And yet, very very rarely, it actually does ring true. One of those rare occasions is right here on Portland chanteuse Alexander Savior’s breathy second album, a rare work of art that doesn’t just grasp for an alternate universe but waves it on home. How many records have allegedly been inspired by trashy ’60s C movies? 29,763? Over a million? And yet this one right here is the only one we’re familiar with that isn’t just inspired by that sepia realm but brings it right to vivid, gasping life. We have heavy heaps of the usual here, heartbreak and love lost and emotional turmoil, but it’s all delivered with a clear-eyed clinical coldness that is both refreshing and appealing. While bedrocked in the blues, there are potent micro doses of freakout jazz, off-kilter percussion, and twangy Telecasters planted deep in the mix of each of these ten tracks like welcome landmines. Easily one of the best tracks of the year, opener “Crying All the Time” pares detailed production with distorted vocals to form a jarring whole that begs for a proper motion picture soundtrack, and “Saving Grace” showcases Savior’s at-times-disturbing lyrical gifts:“Saving grace / Come here to petrify me / She’s not an angel, my dear / She is a beast”. Although young, Savior has already grasped the “leave them wanting more” concept, trimming her songs down to only what is needed, often just a verse and a chorus, sometimes less, a snatch of melody or a rhythm, displaying a definite “bedroom tape” influence on what is otherwise a studio creation. This clash of styles is most palpable on the title track which breaks down an entire epic into just 2:25 of woozy, love drunk magic.