Review Summary: Fearless art rock
Unclothed and alone in the West Texan desert, Annie Clark follows her previous collaboration with Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne, with a self-titled LP more fearless than ever. The entry track to St. Vincent’s album paints a picture of an exposed and vulnerable Annie faced with a rattlesnake in the middle of nowhere. What is most notable is that it is not a fabricated tale or some fancifully worded allusion but a recital of true events, or so she says.
If you have been following the Texan artrocker under the stage name St. Vincent, you will have noticed that she has undergone a transformation of late. Her last two albums, St. Vincent was, by all accounts, a character imprisoned by the mundane. Within the past year and through the clear influence of David Byrne, Clark has reconstructed herself as an Einsteinian haired near-future cult leader who is now unfazed and even comforted by the mundane.
St. Vincent is much more orchestrated than her previous works, and at the same time manages to flirt with the line between the unnatural perfection of the synthesized and the human feeling of acoustic music. The horns on the album are mostly synths, but mixed so well as to blur the listener into belief of a physical horn.
In this album, St. Vincent conveys her frustrations and conspiracy theories about technology, envisioning a world in which we’re so isolated and disconnected from others that we learn feelings from flashcards. Later in the album, she cries out in “Every Tear Disappears,” “Call the twenty-first century, tell her give us a break.” Clark sings stream of consciousness rabbit-trail-internet-explorations leading her from Huey Newton— co-founder of the Black Panthers— to referencing obscure David Foster Wallace quotes and the powerful addiction of the late night internet surf. Songs like “Digital Witness” and “Bring Me Your Love” wrestle with the performativity of social media lyrically woven together with the presentation of cult character from the album cover. The album also deals with vulnerability outside of technology. “I Prefer Your Love” is a song about a health scare from her mother this past year, and the voyage into adulthood that is the realized loss of a parent.
Musically, St. Vincent’s new album, much like Arcade Fire’s Reflektor, has much stronger rhythm and bolder melodies than most of her previous work. The album was written and recorded immediately after a global tour with David Byrne for their collaborative album, Love This Giant, and is heavily influenced by him. The economy of sound on this record is comfortably meticulous. Much like her last album Strange Mercy, the replacement of flute and strings with mixtures of synthesized brass and gritty guitar riffs shows a metamorphosis to stronger, less delicate songs, yet with the same vulnerability in lyrics.
To say this self-titled LP is Clark’s strongest work to date is almost too easy. Dauntless and funky, she’s quoted in an interview with Stephen Colbert as saying she “likes to live at the intersection of accessibility and lunatic fringe.” Whether you’re interested in her exploration of self-identity in a digital age, or can get into some fun eclectic dancy art rock, you should give it a play.