St. Vincent - St. Vincent
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Record Label: Loma Vista/Republic
The self-titled album is largely regarded as an artist's statement album along with the correlation that this will be the essential sound/release/etc. of said artist. And St. Vincent is one hell of a statement, as Annie Clark accomplishes this (and then some). Clark's music has continuously grown more brazen and bold since her 2007 debut, Marry Me and St. Vincent takes us deeper into her bag of tricks. With her fourth album, Clark has delivered artpop (something one megastar failed to achieve last November) - underneath all the eccentric compositions and unconventional structures lie some of the catchiest and biggest hooks of the young year.
From the album art to its Kraftwerk and Talking Heads-tinged features, St. Vincent has a retro-futuristic feel to it. While Clark wears her influences on her sleeve, it never borders on plagiarization - LP4 is still impeccably forward-thinking for the genre, undoubtedly showcasing all of Clark's trademarks. None of her contemporaries come close to what emerges from St. Vincent. The jittery "Rattlesnake" sets the tone for St. Vincent right off the bat, as the stiff chorus cuts right through the airy verses. The aura of her work with David Byrne on Love This Giant lingers throughout - the big, brassy "Digital Witness," the lavish art-punk anthem "Psychopath," and the robotic menace of "Bring Me Your Loves."
St. Vincent is full of purposeful contradictions. It's a dance album that you can't dance to, a guitar album you can't head bang to. It's a calculated, tense journey through one of music's most brilliant minds. On "Huey Newton," Clark gets lost down an internet wormhole as the graceful nature of the song suddenly transitions into an apocalyptic haze. The upbeat tempo pop-rock tempo of "Regret" is betrayed by Clark's abstract lyrics, pausing near its middle so Clark can reveal her fears (I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the heights/I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind).
Throughout her solo career, Clark has been masterful at disguising grim lyrics with pretty instrumentation. She has a knack for bringing out the ugly in the beautiful. The luscious dreamscape of "Prince Johnny" paints a modern-day Pinocchio doing lines of coke in bathroom stalls, its lovely melody anchoring lines such as But honey don't mistake my affection/For another spit and penny-style redemption. The truest example being the album's most poignant track, "Severed Crossed Fingers." Clark closes out LP4 with a vulnerable yet confident ballad, revealing that the truth is ugly, and I feel ugly, too while a gorgeous, slow-motion waltz plays beneath it. Even with the first ten tracks showing the ugliness and hard truths of life, St. Vincent closes with an ambiguous flicker of hope.
There's a moment on the fuzzy "Birth In Reverse" where Clark promises, what I'm swearing, I've never sworn before, which could be interpreted as the album's mission statement. This is Clark's most daring, uncompromising, infectious, and adventurous release yet, as St. Vicent features a musician challenging the very idea of what it means to be an artist in 2014.
I couldn't get into her previous material, but I'm really liking this.
I agree with the statement you made about it being a dance album you can't dance to and a guitar album you can't bang your head to. I was telling someone about the album the other day and they asked me what genre it was and I didn't know how to put it.