St. Vincent - St. Vincent

‘St. Vincent’ takes a wider perspective, and it works phenomenally.

Label: Loma Vista/Caroline International

Rating:

St. Vincent’s third album ‘Strange Mercy’ felt like a breakthrough. Shrink-wrapped teeth gnashed through white latex on the cover, and Annie Clark broke through into a new realm of dark, surgical, self-laceration. On her previous record she struck on a potent alchemy of odd detachment, calmly enticing the listener to take out a scalpel and begin dissection. It often felt like she had yanked out her flaws with forceps and presented them on a stainless steel tray like a museum exhibit.
 
‘St. Vincent’ follows Clark’s celebrated musical partnership with Talking Heads founder and veteran collaborator David Byrne. Post-‘Love This Giant’ -Byrne and Clark’s Walt Whitman-referencing record of gargantuan brass sections - Clark seems as dark as ever, but more importantly, and centrally to her fourth, self-titled record, she also seems fearless. Everyone has probably heard Annie Clark’s favourite tagline by now - ‘I wanted to make a party record you could play at a funeral.” It’s been said before, but it bears repeating, because in essence that is what Clark has done.
 
Clark’s lyricism is sharply acerbic and full of imagery – and this time round it’s less grisly but just as poetic. “You traced the Andes with your index,’ is just one piece of beautiful imagery, borrowed from American author Joan Didion. It’s another nod to ‘Cruel’s Didion-esque Hollywood tale gone wrong, though St. Vincent has left behind her bleach-blonde housewives with 2.4 kids, white wine and barbiturates. This time she’s tracing her finger all the way along a tiny globe. ‘St. Vincent’ takes a wider perspective, and it works phenomenally.
 
‘Digital Witness’, a dystopian brass-romp of tickling funk-guitar riffs and methodical lyrical unpacking of the internet, is perhaps the most forthright example of St. Vincent’s strange, unrelenting curiosity meeting an irresistible handle on pop. There’s that age-old dilemma; ‘If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’. St. Vincent appears to pose a different question – “If I do something, anything, and no one is around to Instagram it, did it really happen?” Clark explores performativity and self-editing through the lens of our growing dependence on the Internet, and she does it on one of the best goddamn pop songs to emerge in 2014 so far.
 
‘St. Vincent’ showcases Annie Clark as a fiercely accomplished musician, a relentlessly original artist, and now, an innovator of pop. You can spend hours hunting the references to the Black Panther Party’s Huey P. Newton,  and needing a lie down because suddenly it dawns that ‘Severed Crossed Fingers’ is an image on loan from American writer Lorrie Moore. Then again, you could just put this album on as loud as fucking possible, and dance. St. Vincent has made a record that allows both careful scrutiny and fearless abandon. Fitting that this should be self-titled, because it feels like Annie Clark’s most ‘St. Vincent’ album yet.