Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is The Archer, the sophomore album from L.A. singer Alexandra Savior.
“I think that’s kind of been my biggest fear,” Alexandra Savior said to us about Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys overshadowing her, back around the release of her debut LP, Belladonna of Sadness, in 2017. “Which really wasn’t something that I understood until he played guitar at one of our shows. And then after that, things started to really escalate and then the attention started to turn towards him, which is really difficult because … It made me question the process. I think I started feeling devalued.”
Back then, Savior was an intentional “Who’s that mystery girl?” project of Columbia Records, who released Belladonna without much promotion and after some delays. Savior’s songwriting and talents on Belladonna were often overshadowed by producer and co-writer Turner’s involvement, particularly since it came after radio silence from Arctic Monkeys, which led to Savior admitting in interviews that the album was maybe more Turner’s than her own, and she didn’t feel great about that. She was only 21, had gotten swept into the currents of the music business off YouTube covers, and was losing herself in the process.
That changes with The Archer, her raw and alluring sophomore LP. After being dropped by Columbia, she was signed by Danger Mouse’s 30th Century Records, and he had her spend the last three years writing the songs on The Archer, which tackle toxic relationships (the title track), domineering partners (“Howl”), and carving space for your emotions in relationships (“Crying All The Time”). The years of being beaten down by a system meant to chew her up and spit her out has given these songs a resolute toughness, a hard-earned honesty, and noir danger.
Savior completed writing The Archer before she went into the studio, where she was joined by Kevin Morby producer Sam Cohen, who lends these songs a theatrical flair that Savior’s voice is well suited for. Back when she was doing YouTube covers, she was noticed for having a dramatic, swelling voice, and that takes centerstage her for the first time since. The blasting “But You” finds Savior as a cooing counterpoint to the klaxon calls of a woolly mammoth-sized horn section, and she saunters and struts through “Send Her Back.” She can pull off the dripping-mascara moans of “Crying All the Time” alongside the delicate piano balladry of “Soft Currents.” Where Belladonna cast Savior’s voice into one or two lanes, here she’s on the 6 lane freeway, changing lanes without signaling, showcasing the different deliveries within her.
“I never felt I was being seen for who I was; I was being seen for what they could push me into and what was most sellable,” Savior told Billboard in the lead up to The Archer’s release. At the very least, The Archer is Savior as she is now; an exciting young artist, striking out on her own path.
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.