Friday, February 28, 2014

The Extroversion of St. Vincent

If you didn't know any better, you'd think St. Vincent had just had emergency surgery a la Alexander McQueen prior to walking on stage. She's got on a white dress that's spattered with red something across the front, like she's pulled her heart out for you. When you listen to the album, it makes a lot of sense.

St. Vincent, a.k.a Annie Clark, has managed to do what a lot of musicians find impossible: Concocted music that resonates very personally with a lot of people without giving away anything from her personal life. This strange kind of anonymity is vastly fascinating, and leaves her music completely open for someone to fill with interpretations and all kinds of good stuff. It's pretty close to a miracle.

Whereas her last solo effort, Strange Mercy, was all inner workings and pent-up aggression and emotion. The eponymous new album currently playing through my speakers, is indeed the aforementioned heart on a plate, hence the bloody dresses. 

So that being said, the world created on this fourth record is pretty amazing.The jittery heat of Rattlesnake, the Prince meets Billy Joel meets cult leader bounce of Birth In Reverse, and the softness of I Prefer Your Love and Prince Johnny are just a few of standouts on a standout album. I really can't name a favorite song. They're all deliciously different while still making a cohesive sound, something also nearly impossible to do.

Clark's formidable guitar skills are on display in this album too. The jammy riffs on Birth In Reverse, the Zeppelin style riffing on Huey Newton and Bring Me Your Loves, (Yes, that Huey Newton, but also no, not THE Huey Newton. I'll get to that later) are awesome. Her pop sensibility comes out on tracks like Regret and Psychopath as well. There's a little taste of everything that makes St. Vincent so great on this album.

But it's also unlike anything she's ever done before. A little bit more extroverted, as she's described it. There's a lot of groovy, dance-able beats, another thing Clark expressed interest in working on with this album. Her collaboration with Talking Heads member David Byrne has had some influence as well, evident on the robotic funk of super groovy lead single Digital Witness.

The whole album work well as a unit too, something I'm having a harder time finding as artists go for a more single-oriented approach. There's a story here, whatever it is, which brings me back to my first point: This album is for you to fill with thoughts. Even though we know that Rattlesnake was based on a real life walk  in the desert gone wrong, Huey Newton is about an Ambien-induced hallucination while doctors were trying to give Clark sleep medication on tour in which she hallucinated THAT Huey Newton, and that I Prefer Your Love is about her mom's near-death experience, that doesn't take precedence when you're listening. This album is for you to populate, St. Vincent's just given you the outline. Which isn't to say that it's not incredibly detailed. It's a very fun listen on the surface, but the deeper you dig through the lyrics and orchestrations, the more you find.

This album works in so many ways, which is why it already gets my vote for favorite album of the year. 

Best lyric: Don't mistake my affection/For another spit and penny style redemption. (Prince Johnny)

St. Vincent is now available and streaming on Spotify.


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