Here we are, back again with another post-punk release, back again with another Artoffact release, this time courtesty of Vancouver, BC’s Actors, who continue the time-honored tradition of blending dark and moody tones with upbeat danceable rhythms and bright melodies. Whereas the last Artoffact release I’ve talked about here sought to push the genre into more modern territories, on Acts of Worship, Actors pays homage to the classics and doesn’t shake up the original recipe too much. But hey, sometimes you want to go with the original recipe over the extra spicy. I might have lost the metaphor somewhere in there.
Acts of Worship is the second full-length from the Canadian foursome, three years after their debut It Will Come to You, and on this album, frontman Jason Corbett continues the sonic expedition down the same path they set out on. “It’s about embracing who you are and having the confidence to do what you feel and not be afraid,” he says. “I made the first Actors album without caring about who would hear it. I think people can feel honesty in music whether they realize it or not. The new album is exactly where I wanted to go with Actors. It expands on the last album lyrically and sonically. It’s the next step of our journey.” Corbett, who not only sings and plays guitar but also produced the album, took inspiration from the giants of the scene in writing Acts of Worship: big names like Bowie, Roxy Music and Duran Duran. Seems like they are setting themselves up with big shoes to fill, but the talent on Acts of Worship more than rises to the occasion. Joining the band on this album is new bassist Kendall Wooding, who not only crushes it out of the park (in this writer’s humble opinion) and rounds out the quartet, but also, according to Corbett, perfectly reflects the balance of masculine and feminine energy contained within the songs.
Acts of Worship is an album that thrives on being understated. Whereas bands like the aforementioned Wingtips succeed based on their ability to blend lots of different elements together, Actors work from a more bare-bones outline; simple but effective beats drive the songs forward underneath Wooding’s melodic basslines, paving the way for delicate interplay between the shimmering guitars and synth lines and the twin vocals of Corbett and synth player Shannon Hemmett. It’s impossible to say that one method is better; they each have their own merits, and on Acts of Worship, Actors make a very good case for why the latter should not be discounted. It’s all about the payoff, and when you keep it simple, you’re able to appreciate the way each and every piece both stands out and supports the others. It’s here that I have to take time to once again gush about how great the basslines are: Wooding holds down the low end with such confidence that it almost seems too easy, but the cool factor that the woody, throbbing bass adds to these songs can’t be overstated. The dueling male and female vocals also help to really hammer home the theme of dichotomies that runs through Acts of Worship: masculine and feminine, light and dark, melancholy and joyful.
Acts of Worship certainly doesn’t do anything to break the post-punk mold, but it is a really great showcase of what the formula can accomplish. In a year that has honestly been stacked with awesome post-punk and shoegaze-y releases, this one will certainly land up there. It’s got all the right elements: it’s groovy, it’s danceable, it’s catchy, and it’s deeply emotional. It’s not overly simple, but there is definitely beauty in simplicity executed very well.