Final Rating: 9.2/10
St. Vincent (named after the place poet Dylan Thomas died, not after a saint) has always been cheeky with her sense of humor. She’s a bit twisted for someone so sweet. She will sing about such dreads with the nicest words possible. Her claim to fame is nothing new by now, and her albums up until now have all poetically transformed ugly images into works of beauty. While her persona has not changed, St. Vincent (real name being Annie Clark) has constantly tried to explore new areas musically. What is interesting is that these sounds compliment the lyrics, always similar in nature, so radically differently that each album sounds like a different mindset of someone who has escaped the box and cannot find a way back in. Her first album Marry Me is almost like an indie lullaby. Actor is a fairy tale being sucked into a black hole. Strange Mercy is an autobiography caught amidst television static. Now, her self titled album St. Vincent ends up being her most bizarre album to date, where her name turns into that of an other worldly being rather than her own.
St. Vincent is at the peak of being an alter ego for Annie Clark, where as before it just served as a stage name. The music here is so eerie and extra terrestrial, that you almost feel like you are inside of a room made out of chrome the entire album. In fact, a lot of the album feels metallic: The Queens of the Stone Age-like ending to Huey Newton, the worrying melody in Rattlesnake, and even the bombastic chorus in first single Birth in Reverse. Structurally, Clark experiments with the minds of progressions new wave artists would have used back in the day (as she may have been inspired by David Byrne of the Talking Heads, of whom she made an album with back in 2012). For instance, Digital Witness is a peculiar song that marches along like the pink elephants in Dumbo’s drunken nightmare, as it carries the same kind of catchy chaos that a song like Born Under Punches had. Regret goes through movements that somehow melt into one another through Clark’s passion for connecting any two things together. This usually was achieved by her combination of sweet vocals with her jilted (and infectious) guitar playing. On Regret, though, we have a catchy 90’s rock song flow into an indie pop chorus effortlessly. The pretty voice and ugly (in the nicest way possible) guitar tones are still there, but on Regret, you may feel that Clark has truly discovered an absolute. Here, we have two ideas that shouldn’t work, and yet they do.
Much of her self titled album feels this way, and perhaps that is why it is self titled. Not because it is her most personal album, but because she’s broadcasting essentially what the world made of St. Vincent this entire time through hew own perspective. Perhaps she didn’t mean to create such contrasts all of these years (not on the level that many proclaimed anyways). Maybe she just wanted to make music the way she wanted to. She’s gotten more peculiar and also more in control on this album as a result of playing off her own reviews. Would you have expected a song as out-there as Bring Me Your Loves four years ago? Maybe not, but now it makes perfect sense. The way she ends off the song so triumphantly only shows that she’s not just trying to experiment more but that she knows damn well how to. The album isn’t without touching moments, even with all of its oddities. I Prefer Your Love, possibly her most chilling soft song yet, is a gorgeously textured ballad that adds some breathing space mid album. Psychopath is a more upbeat song but it carries a similar human quality with it as her will to be discovered emotionally shines through her curiosity for discovery.
Clark is consistently a lyrical marvel, and this album is no exception. On the final track Severed Crossed Fingers, she faintly sings that she and the one she loves can be heroes; countering the love story David Bowie once sung about decades ago by instead saying that they will only be happy when at the bar (as “seeing double beats not seeing one of you”). In Prince Johnny, she claims that he prays “to all to make [him] a real boy”, as it may be the case that Johnny can no longer find truth or assurance in fairy tales. With Every Tear Disappears, she writes a science fiction poem of rebellion against emotional hurt, as she sings “Yeah, I live on wires. Yeah, I’ve been born twice”. Have we created our own lives online to escape our real lives, or are we no all there as we create androids of ourselves? Who knows what Clark is really saying. It may be best to let her live her second life as she wills.
St. Vincent is an album full of interesting moments and memorable sounds. It is a sterling effort from one of indie’s current darlings with no signs of losing fuel. There is a reason why this album is her self titled one. It’s because her stage name came from the place where Dylan Thomas passed away and thus the location became “the place where poetry comes to die” (as she herself told the New York Times back in 2009). If this solo album best represents the final moments and the stages of decay for poetry, then I can find solace in knowing that we will all experience poetry reincarnated when we put this hauntingly captivating album on repeat.
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