ALBUM: St. Vincent
ARTIST: St. Vincent
With three albums under her belt and years of musical experience, St. Vincent, otherwise known as Annie Clark, has delivered her fourth album loaded with cantankerous yet tamed noises, fictitious honesty, and pleasurable dissonance. St. Vincent is arguably one of Clark’s best works with her own invention of crippled pop that catches the ear and strangles one’s infatuation. But by the history of her work St. Vincent’s self-titled album is of no surprise to familiar listeners. Lots of inspiration of sound seems to have come from her last album constructed with David Byrne of The Talking Heads, Love This Giant- from brassy, unconventional noise on “Digital Witness” to chaotic jam band on “Birth In Reverse.” She is not shy in any aspect of her music whether boasting in sound manipulation or honesty as well as realism lyrically. Within in these two ruthless artistic aspects, Clark exemplifies her true genius in order progress her music past her more subdued last album Strange Mercy into a raunchy and violent dimension that still occupies a sound solely expressive of St. Vincent.
St. Vincent is peculiar in subject especially in songs such as “Rattlesnake” and “Huey Newton” but what makes them genuine and even more exciting than their questionable content at first glance is that they are personal experiences turned into a whacked out musical experience. This is comforting in that it displays that Clark is not just writing down some artistic bullshit in order to sound over inspired, but that she is injecting her brilliance for lyrics into irregular life experiences that make the listener think. “Rattlesnake (don’t think too hard) is actually about an encounter with the venomous creature while Clark was becoming sensual with nature one day in the Texas desert. While this track seems to hold more of an obvious answer for subject matter, “Huey Newton” is not as easy to pin. It is unlikely for Clark to have an encounter with the deceased Black Panther Party founder, right? Well, with a bit of help from some sedatives gone hallucinogenic, Clark turned her trippy occurrence into a track about mendacity of the Internet and reality. Several other tracks on the self-titled album seem to display the occurring concept of destruction of humanity through obsession with Internet interactions.
Many other interesting subjects cluster the album such death and dying, fear of not being success at one’s passion, fear of losing a friend, and even the hatred of hospitals. Clark not only dives into the weird and unconventional but the personal and the terrifying. Hidden behind the heavy mechanical noises and the unexplainable bashing of hazy guitars is the sincere and internal struggles that Clark places before the listener like leaving her heart on her sleeve. She places it before the listener in her own vision of metaphors and comparisons that make the subject matter not seem too accessible to the point of unoriginality. The beautiful “ I Prefer Your Love” is fragile and quirky in that Clark does not out rightly say her mother’s love was the only one that brought her comfort and that she is upset she has to watch her mother suffer illness. She compares her to one of the biggest religious figures and is discrete about the literal subject matter with lines like “name tagged tourist,” implying about patients in hospitals with wristbands carrying their name. Her subtly and passion in her voice should be admired. Her genius should be applauded.
Another aspect from St. Vincent that should not be under looked is the relation of the tone of the sound to the mood of the lyrics. With such dark themes being tossed around one would think that this album would not be fun for one to work out with or to dance to. Wrong. The juxtaposition between content and rhythm is of large portion. Most of the jams involve distorted facets of pop with experimental twists. However, just because Clark tends to be swaying towards more eccentric pop does not make the music inaccessible. “Regret,” “Rattlesnake,” “Birth in Reverse,” and even “Severed Crossed Fingers,” contain happy or danceable undertones. Maybe smiling about death is not what Clark is going for, although it could be, the album’s ability to be aware of its fears and weaknesses is something the listener should come to appreciate. Do not look at things we cannot control in life as automatic liabilities.
Clark’s ability to conjure multiple feelings and sensations, to raise questions about reality and the generation society is living in now is invigorating and stimulating. St. Vincent’s ability to strike up intellectual chaos in her self-titled album is an accomplishment. The album holds great energy as well as production that give some of the songs power to become classics. The questioning of a digital age through digital media is brilliant in that St. Vincent is questioning not only the external world, but herself as well while still staying true to her art.
"I try to live at the intersection of accessible and lunatic.”