Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brett Allen, Mastering by Sam Patlove
Elizabeth Harper's heart burns. It burns and it burns and then it goes on to burn some more. It yearns for the kinds of things that hearts yearn for and she doesn't try to cool it down at all. She lets it get broiling and working overtime, for it all pours into the songs that she makes under the name Class Actress - a project that many are frantically claiming as the new Madonna and it's easy to see why. Harper rides gigantic hooks and yet takes her toils in the heart mines into some delightfully electronic places, giving us the feel of newer Madge and Robyn material, but it seems as if there's so much more to it than that. The backing tracks and beats are superbly constructed and Harper gives the kind of effort vocally that has stardom written all over it. She harps on the games of love and attraction the way that an obsessive would, doing so in a cool and collected way that makes it all sound philosophical and poetic, not mention emotionally draining, damaging and oddly intriguing as all hell. The songs on her debut EP, "Journal of Ardency" bounce so seductively, as if the heart's blood-pumping calibrations were consulted when they were being written. It feels as if her songs are in cahoots with all of your own body's inner-workings and it's maddeningly pleasurable - especially for a night out in a big city that feels as if it's caving in on you, swallowing you whole. It's music for a chest that feels cavernous - warm and cold at the same time, trying to find a way of staying afloat. Harper sings of those folks who are worn to the threads by perpetual break-ups and continually getting tossed to the corner by another someone - or just being flat-out ignored by one that they've had their eyes on. They are vulnerable, though not necessarily weak. They're hardened and seeking something to finally work out for the better for them, with Harper singing with a glorious ache in her throat. The session here - featuring two previously unrecorded songs - was scheduled in a whirlwind, fit into our itinerary at March's South By Southwest music festival in Austin. The plan was to shut down for the night hours earlier, but our buddies at The Hood Internet were working on a remix for a 7-inch series of remixes for the British band The xx and they were hoping to get some vocals from Harper and Gary, Indiana, rapper Freddie Gibbs while they were both in town. We were happy to oblige and we were able to make sessions happen as well. Harper came in first and laid down her session and contributed vocals for the yet-to-be-released but incredible (we've heard the finished product!) track prior to Gibbs showing up a while later. If memory serves, the two never even crossed paths, but the day had been long at that point and memory doesn't always serve at that point. She was dressed for a gig, with her makeup thick and perfect, and she made quick work of her vocals. She was shy and demure and yet she carried a confidence that belied her very susceptible characters. She wasn't that broken spirit, howling at the moon for her love to finally reach her, though, we suppose that it's something that can hide itself well if that's the desired effect. Bring on the broken, burning hearts. Harper makes them phenomenal dance numbers.