Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, is back with her 5th studio album. After receiving a mixed reception for her previous release, a collaborative album with David Byrne of Talking Heads fame (Love This Giant), St. Vincent had a point to prove. Produced by John Congleton (who has worked with Modest Mouse and R. Kelly), Clark has fashioned her most pop-orientated album thus far, making her Magnum Opus in the process.
St. Vincent, an Oklahoma native, is a well-known multi-instrumentalist who can even play the famed Theremin. In previous albums she can be accused of simply trying too much – on her debut album (Marry Me) she played 13 different instruments. However, on St. Vincent she is only credited with vocals and guitar. Taking a back-seat with other instruments has allowed her to focus more on composition and less on showing off her large musical skill set. Being pop-orientated has not discouraged Clark from producing an album with an experimental and new sounding twist with this release also being Clark’s most experimental. Influences from Love This Giant are rife with horns on Digital Witness (the second single release), and more dance and funk focused than any previous record. This is St. Vincent’s 11th year since her first release, and each release after that has helped shape her sound into what it is now. The sound of this album is very tight, everything is perfectly placed and beat changes in songs such as Huey Newton and Birth in Reverse show there is no-one truly comparable to St. Vincent in music at the moment. Her mix of hope and desolation coupled with her mesmerising voice in Prince Johnny is just one example of an album full of fantastic songs.
St. Vincent starts with Rattlesnake, an electronic story motivated by Clark’s experiences in South-western USA. A dance-inspired freak-out of an opener paves the way for this album to amaze. Birth in Reverse was the first single from St. Vincent and it’s clear to see why. This upbeat and incredibly fun track features everything – a pop-inspired beginning and chorus, a masturbation reference (“oh, what an ordinary day/take out the garbage, masturbate”), and a short prog-inspired end – all surrounded by an unhealthy amount of distortion. Prince Johnny, Severed Crossed Fingers and I Prefer Your Love are melancholic ballads with optimistic vocals, whilst Digital Witness, Bring Me Your Loves and Psychopath are funk-driven, jazz-inspired anthems. I Prefer Your Love is highly influenced by trip-hop and the story based on Clark’s ill mother is a truly beautiful song. This LP is Clark’s most varied yet, and it also makes social statements. In Digital Witness, St. Vincent mocks modern social media culture – “What’s the point of even sleeping/if I can’t show it if you can’t see me/what’s the point of doing anything?” – whilst in Huey Newton “Pleasure dot loath dot Huey dot Newton/oh, it was a lonely, lonely winter” shows she has something against the internet generation.
St. Vincent is a voice and sound unique in music and this album provides the best evidence for that. Songs as striking as I Prefer Your Love are placed next to Digital Witness showcasing the diversity of the record. St. Vincent has produced a record which has culminated from a decade of experience working with artists such as Sufjan Stevens and The Polyphonic Spree. All these influences have helped Clark produce St. Vincent – her greatest work, triumphing over Strange Mercy and Actor, two highly acclaimed albums in their own right. With St. Vincent finally finding her formula for greatness, her future looks very bright.
by Elliot Druce