St. Vincent
St. Vincent


4.5
superb

Review

by Greg Fisher STAFF
February 23rd, 2014 | 714 replies


Release Date: 02/25/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A challenging art pop album that convincingly balances the beautiful with the ugly, and ultimately stays human despite its futuristic leanings.

The allure of Texan indie darling Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, has always lain in her tremendous versatility. Whether it was the tenderness of her debut Merry Me, the cerebral force of Actor or the sheer humanity of Strange Mercy, she's never been afraid to take risks, perpetually shape-shifting from a fearless luminary to an inconspicuous singer-songwriter. This dichotomy between the discordant and the serene permeates through Clark's eponymous fourth album as well. She's still attempting to find the middle ground between idiosyncratic songwriting and pop sensibilities, yet the sense of space that propelled her essential previous outing has been traded for robotic groove and futuristic studio execution. There's no mistake that the precisely designed album cover pictures Clark as a near-future cult leader that could populate one of Philip K. Dick's sci-fi novels. Her choreographed live shows follow suit as the singer/guitarist goes totally bonkers on stage, incorporating bold theatrics to reflect her deranged visions. Such risky marketing endeavors would certainly fizzle out if St. Vincent wasn't such a resounding triumph.

The album is front-loaded with tunes that seamlessly integrate musical inventiveness, great vitality and sharp focus. Opener 'Rattlesnake' is as panicky as it is immediate, beginning with a tectonic 3-bit beat and climaxing in an explosive guitar solo to scintillating effect. 'Birth In Reverse' rocks hard, setting Clark's signature skronky shredding against a dissonant synth-heavy backdrop. There's no better number to encapsulate the artist's duality than the surrealistic 'Huey Newton' in which lush dream pop suddenly bursts into horror-show sludge halfway through. Meanwhile, 'Digital Witness' rekindles her collaboration with David Byrne, making for a genuinely infectious tune built around a steady beat and distorted horn section. The sonic flourishes has been engineered to perfection by John Congleton whose output with experimental rockers The Paper Chase leaves its stamp on the record's most oppressively dark moments like 'Bring Me Your Loves.' The track, which delves into its grotesque imagery with distinctly Arabic rhythms, would be a disaster in the hands of a less seasoned artist, but Clark turns it into an ominous party banger that's uniquely hers.

The singer's lyricism remains as dexterous and socially aware as ever. While Strange Mercy hinted at financial crisis on numerous cuts, the self-titled often revolves around the fears connected with advanced technology, as the humorous skewering of social media in 'Digital Witness' attests. Even though the sound of the new record may have been heavily synthesized in order to make it more robotic, there's still a whole lot of heart and emotional heft on display. Clark gets achingly personal on the album's staggering ballads which show that she doesn’t need to rely on artful stylistic embellishments to leave a lasting impact. Dedicated to her mother, 'I Prefer Your Love' may be her most heartfelt manifestation of affection thus far. When she sings “All the good in me is because of you” to the ethereal arrangement, the song hits every emotional note right. The delightful space balladry of 'Severed Crossed Fingers' is equally poignant as Clark reflects on finding comfort as a performer in the thankless music business.

Clark’s decision to make her fourth album self-titled implies that this is her definitive work, and indeed she's in commendable form. St. Vincent is a challenging art pop album that convincingly balances the beautiful with the ugly, and ultimately stays human despite its futuristic leanings. On 'Every Tear Disappears', Clark proclaims “A smile is more than showing teeth / It's not the potion, it's the magic that I seek”, which may be the artist's unequivocal statement of intent showcasing her ongoing quest for artistic self-fulfillment.




Recent reviews by this author
Wildbirds & Peacedrums RhythmDope Body Lifer
Sparky HumanimationLo-Pan Colossus
Kimbra The Golden EchoDog Fashion Disco Sweet Nothings
user ratings (591)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
greg84
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2014


7459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Another review, another stoner rock album.

The live video for Rattlesnake, ladies and gents:

http://youtu.be/lgZWGJZHkGM

Green Baron
February 22nd 2014


20325 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Surprised its average is holding up

Green Baron
February 22nd 2014


20325 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Okay, nevermind it fell to a 4.3

PistolPete
February 22nd 2014


3650 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Okay, nevermind it fell to a 4.3"

That was my fault, apologies.

BigPleb
February 22nd 2014


37857 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Rules.

Digging: Arc Iris - Arc Iris

Green Baron
February 22nd 2014


20325 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Will jam this soon I got to.

What genre is this though is it poppy

PistolPete
February 22nd 2014


3650 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's "crazy cat lady" pop

tempest--
February 22nd 2014


14589 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"There's no mistake that the precisely designed album cover pictures Clark as a near-future cult leader"

And I would be perfectly okay with this.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2014


10382 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Nice work, Greg! This may be one of my favorite reviews of yours, and it's not just because of who it's about.

Digging: Thou - Heathen

tempest--
February 22nd 2014


14589 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fantastic review, Greg. I love the way you.. use.. words.

And yea, incredible album. I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up as my AOTY, there will need to be something truly amazing to top it.

Veldin
February 22nd 2014


1618 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Interesting, I didn't know John Congleton worked on this. Good review. /catlady

hogan900
Contributing Reviewer
February 22nd 2014


1724 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Wish I could write as good as you when it comes to pop music. Record is awesome though.

dancok
February 22nd 2014


51 Comments


Waiting for the official release of the album ihihihihihi, can't wait

RogueNine
February 22nd 2014


1403 Comments


"Fantastic review, Greg. I love the way you.. use.. words."

For real.

Calc
February 23rd 2014


12360 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

if this is half as good as Yuna i'll love the shit outta this.

Digging: Maxwell August Croy and Sean Mccann - I

Gyromania
February 23rd 2014


16074 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

summary seems unnecessarily wordy, but the review is good

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2014


10382 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

"Another review, another stoner rock album."

Omg this is the greatest thing you've ever said

penk
February 23rd 2014


1 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Brilliant album.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2014


4456 Comments


"Another review, another stoner rock album."

Omg this is the greatest thing you've ever said


I also love that he pulled out the '4.5' rating too, nice. Anyway, awesome review as always, Greg. I've listened to a few songs from Actor, but I've never really given her work a proper listen. I'll download this and her other albums tonight and check them out.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2014


7459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks guys... and yeah, the summary is wordy.

I'm actually thinking of bumping my rating up, Hernan. Regret and Psychopath could've been better, though.

...and John Congleton has been working with her since Actor.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy