Elizabeth Harper has come a long way since her singer/songwriter coffeehouse days. Now channeling her inner Madonna, Harper has taken the reigns of electro-pop trio, Class Actress, along with producers Scott Rosenthal and Mark Richardson. Class Actress’ debut EP, Journal of Ardency, which was released on Terrible Records, a new label run by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, has garnered Harper more attention than she ever would have achieved strumming her guitar inside a coffeehouse.
Relying on her coquette-ish, chilly vocals, Harper takes command of each of the five songs on this EP, allowing the ‘80s sounding synths and beats to guide her through tales of love, feeling lost, and childhood memories. Chiming beats and wacky video game-esque sound effects on “Careful What You Say” set the tone for the rest of the EP; this is what Harper should have been doing all along. She’s very good at creating a mood, which is what this EP evokes, a sense of confusion and trying to find one’s way amongst the obstacles of life.
The chiming beats continue under a wave of vintage synths on the title track, which finds Harper coo-ing “You think I’m living it / living it / living it / living it up” in the sing-along worthy chorus. One of the catchiest tracks on the EP by far, “Journal of Ardency” hints at the potential Class Actress have for their future full length debut. They know moody-pop and they know it well. It’s not surprising, then, to learn that Harper was a drama major in college once upon a time.
The post-punk bass line of “Let Me Take You Out” is accented with twinkling guitar riffs, and although the song continues in the catchy vein of the title track, it unfortunately contains some less-than-creative lyrics like “For a six-year-old coming off a waterslide / the climb back up is like Mount Everest.” Thankfully, the music behind the lyrics saves the rest of the song from mediocrity and before the listener can even process the lyrics, they’re thrown right into the next track, “Adolescent Heart”. With its “ba ba ba” vocal harmonies, “Adolescent Heart” is clearly the most obvious pop song on the EP. Harper croons that “It doesn’t have to be so hard” and that she wants to “Reach out to your broken adolescent heart / let me let me let me love / for what you are,” turning teenage love into something worth singing about.
Another ode to love, “Someone Real”, closes out the EP with pitch-shifted beats giving the song a somber nod, especially on lyrics like “Believe me when I tell you that I need someone real.” In a twist though, the song turns dancey in the last two minutes, bursting with swirling synths and propulsive beats that wake the listener up and end the EP on an uplifting note. Here’s hoping that Class Actress can generate the same provocative mood on their forthcoming full length debut.