Class Actress is the moniker for Brooklyn singer-songwriter Elizabeth Harper, but this definitely isn’t her first venture into the music industry. Harper had released a solo record under her own name back in 2005, but it wasn’t until she hooked up with electronic producer Mark Richardson that her songs were really given the proper vehicle to set herself apart in the indie music world.
Class Actress first started garnering Internet buzz with wonky remixes of songs by Neon Indian and The xx, setting the stage for her EP from 2010 and now her debut album, Rapprocher. According to Harper herself, Class Actress has “crafted sensual music about tragic romance and the eternal longing for all the things you can’t have.” And as ridiculous as that might sound, I couldn’t have described Class Actress’ sound any better myself.
Like most acts that attempt to reclaim glamorous early-‘80s New Wave, Class Actress lives in a completely different era. Like Neon Indian’s first album, the somewhat lo-fi production values and vintage instrumentation never get in the way of the songs, but instead manage to stand alongside them hand-in-hand. This has to do mostly with the fact that the songs themselves on Rapprocher are just infectiously catchy. Whether its the insatiable choruses of “Love Me Like You Used To” or “Weekend,” Class Actress clearly has little interest in the washed-out vocals and melodic inaccessibility of other lo-fi acts. Fortunately, Rapprocher balances these unashamedly poppy and simple melodies with layers of analog synths and vintage drum beats that keep the album from ever being too sugary. In fact, Class Actress actually went through the pain of sampling ’80s drum hits and really gives this album the feel of something that was recorded in 1982.
Ultimately though, the success of Rapprocher hinges on the melodies, vocal delivery, and attitude of Elizabeth Harper. Considering how drastic an image shift Harper took from local acoustic guitar-strumming singer-songwriter to a sex-addicted, caps lock-loving diva, I won’t comment on her legitimacy because the truth is that she completely sells it in Rapprocher. And while Harper doesn’t quite have the charisma of idols like Madonna or even artists who’ve attempted similar image transformations like Lana Del Rey, the heartbroken melodrama of each of the songs projects itself fully in the image Elizabeth Harper bears.
In other words, Class Actress totally pulls it off. Even with the inclusion of a couple of duds on here like “Missed” (where Harper endlessly repeats “You’re gonna miss me” to the point of irritation), for the most part, Rapprocher is a tight little album full of melodramatic pop tunes dripping in ’80s loving.
(This review originally written for PasteMagazine.com. Rating score rounded to match requirements.)