There are guilty pleasures, and then theres Class Actress, a new name on New York Citys eternally hip indie-electronic scene. Theyre just plain guilty thanks to singer Elizabeth Harper, the beauty and the brains behind the band. And thats not because she was delayed at the border prior to her bands club gig at Lees Palace in downtown Toronto. But more on her “guiltiness” later. Harpers current musical passion hearkens back to everything exciting, romantic, and even raunchy about NYC club life throughout the ages, with a particular emphasis on the synthesized sounds of the 80’s.
On the surface, Class Actress mixes and mingles simple, Depeche Mode and New Order-inspired synth beats with Harpers seemingly effortless vocals, which call to mind other empowered female songsters from Debbie Harry to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O. But there is definitely a scandalous side to her. Unlike some dime-a-dozen pop starlets who feel they have to outwardly flaunt their wares to get noticed, Harper remains infinitely more subdued and mysterious, almost as if you were watching a black widow spider on stage. This became scarily apparent when Class Actress opened for fellow electronic artists Neon Indian recently at Torontos sinfully intimate Lees Palace.
There were no overly provocative costumes or outlandish behavior, only a dangerously potent sexual energy emanating from Harper that pervaded every nook and cranny of the venue. Harpers goal at every show, she told me later in an interview, is to make a mood. Even though she was way too young to have seen movies like Pretty in Pink during their first run (or even on VHS), she knows that people are not as romantic as they were back then the 80s were so much more Victorian. Were not so good at handling the kind of intimacy, vulnerability and truth she sings about in “Let Me Take You Out” in the 2010s, which is why she presents Class Actress songs in a sort of 80s heartsick capsule that can be taken like medicine instead of rubbing alcohol into a cut.
Harper certainly did an admirable job of bringing some of that lost 80s love back during their incredibly mesmerizing, time-freezing eight song set. On title track “Journal of Ardency”, off from their debut EP, she didnt so much sing as whisper suggestively into her microphone, pausing occasionally to flirt with her mini-keyboard. Im sure every red-blooded male present felt that she was having a private conversation with them, to be continued somewhere secret after the show
Weve all heard the line about blondes having more fun; this is one brunette who definitely knows how to get what she wants!
All the Saints
Careful What You Say
Love Me Like You Used To
Journal of Ardency
Let Me Take You Out