Recording information: Elizabeth Harper's Apartment, Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Photographer: Benjy Russell.
The most impressive thing on Class Actress' debut full-length album Rapprocher is the voice of Elizabeth Harper. Her rich, powerful, not to mention thoroughly enchanting vocals give the retro-synth pop sound a strength and impact that eludes most bands who chart a similar musical course. Of course, without songs and a decent overall sound, an amazing voice is just an amazing voice. Luckily, the songs and sound are up to the challenge and Rapprocher turns out the match of nearly any synth pop album of the last few decades. Harper and her musical partner Mark Richardson create a sound that nods to the past but is totally modern at the same time. The synths are clunky like like they were in '80s, but are also atmospheric and fuzzy like the chilled bedroom practitioners of the 2010s. Richardson conjures plenty of emotion from the simple melody lines and washes of sound, and the beats he comes up with are never less than perfect. Those aforementioned melodies are hooky and memorable, filled with melancholy grace and radio-friendly, singalong choruses. Quite a few of the tracks here ("Weekend," "Hanging On," "Need to Know") would sound right on a comp of forgotten gems of the '80s, a few would count as greatest hits of the era. The highlights here are the stunning "Love Me Like You Used To," a close relation to Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps," with Harper sounding nearly as destroyed and raw as Karen O (which is really saying something); "Limousine," which has a decadent Glass Candy feel, but with even more rain spattering on the windshield, and the heartbreakingly insistent "Keep You." Above it all is Harper's voice. The amount of emotion and pain she can put into a single line of lyrics is enough to twist even the coldest new waver into a lump of tears, and the occasional glimpses of happiness that creep in will keep you glowing for hours. She is a singer to treasure, and even a lousy album that featured her would be worth hearing. All the better that Rapprocher is such a perfect blend of vocals, music, and songcraft. You'd have to go a long way to hear a better synth pop album, no matter what decade you examine. ~ Tim Sendra
Spin (p.73) - "Chillwave never had much of a female presence, but Brooklyn's Class Actress aim to change that."
Magnet (p.55) - "[Harper's] voice projects both hi-gloss glamour and a personable, almost-casual geniality..."
CMJ - "[I]f you are in the mood for Euro-club love songs, then proceed."
Q (Magazine) (p.125) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[With] 'Love Me Like You Used To' recalling late-'90s electroclash and the louche glide of 'Limousine' giving a nod to both Ladytron and William DeVaughn's vintage soul..."