St. Vincent
St. Vincent


4.5
superb

Review

by Greg Fisher STAFF
February 23rd, 2014 | 633 replies | 49,758 views


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.




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user ratings (540)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
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Comments:Add a Comment 
greg84
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2014



7365 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Another review, another stoner rock album.

The live video for Rattlesnake, ladies and gents:

http://youtu.be/lgZWGJZHkGM

Digging: 68 - In Humor and Sadness

Green Baron
February 22nd 2014



19773 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Surprised its average is holding up

Digging: Royal Blood - Royal Blood

Green Baron
February 22nd 2014



19773 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Okay, nevermind it fell to a 4.3

PistolPete
February 22nd 2014



3591 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Okay, nevermind it fell to a 4.3"

That was my fault, apologies.

Digging: Jolly - The Audio Guide to Happiness (Part 2)

BigPleb
February 22nd 2014



36094 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Rules.

Digging: Arc Iris - Arc Iris

Green Baron
February 22nd 2014



19773 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Will jam this soon I got to.

What genre is this though is it poppy

PistolPete
February 22nd 2014



3591 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's "crazy cat lady" pop

tempest--
February 22nd 2014



13215 Comments


"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.

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2014



10070 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: The Contortionist - Language

tempest--
February 22nd 2014



13215 Comments


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



1142 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

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

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

Lakes.
February 22nd 2014



26979 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the synths on that one song remind me of camel - moonmadness

Digging: Talk Talk - The Colour of Spring

hogan900
Contributing Reviewer
February 22nd 2014



1610 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



1232 Comments


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

For real.

Calc
February 23rd 2014



12146 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

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

Digging: Jizue - Shiori

Gyromania
February 23rd 2014



15506 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

summary seems unnecessarily wordy, but the review is good

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2014



10070 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



4412 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.

Digging: Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty



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