Of course, the best pop stars just are. Shape-shifting chameleons of their own design. Plotting their new era before the demise of the last; pilfering from all echelons of culture past and present, a nod to an all-time hero there, a metaphorical high-five to a wilfully obscure reference there. All told, St Vincent had easily reached this level by the time her last album, 2017’s ‘Masseduction’ was released, a neon-coloured electronic invasion, raising an arched eyebrow to the celebrity world in which she’d not long found herself entrenched in. Should anyone have questioned if one-time indie hero Annie Clark had really crossed over into pop icon territory, her appearance at the 2019 Grammys, mirroring Dua Lipa on a performance of the latter’s ‘One Kiss’ provided one overwhelming answer: the only difference, one shreds.
And, like all great pop stars, ‘Daddy’s Home’ sees St Vincent transformed once again, both musically and visually. The record is a trip through the early American ‘70s, before punk had its way. It’s sonically warm, tinged with the hue of tobacco stains. But, thanks to countless deft touches by Annie and co-conspirator Jack Antonoff, never marinates in its own nostalgia. Take ‘Somebody Like Me’, a folky number with slide guitar - just as it threatens to welcome normality, in comes a trip hop beat; the Joni Mitchell-like ‘…At The Holiday Party’ does similarly with funk, or there’s ‘Down and Out Downtown’, where Annie’s spoken word briefly falls into a hip hop rhythm. Similarly ‘The Laughing Man’ rhymes “Playstations” with “suicidal ideations”, and if that concept brings to mind Alex Turner’s last outing - it’s not far off.
The record’s also littered with pop culture references whether literal (‘Melting of the Sun’ and its allusions to famous women’s pain) or musical. That there’s never a Bowie comparison further than six feet from Annie at any given moment makes the ‘Fame’-like echoed “Down” of that track all the smarter (that she’s also perhaps less intentionally matched One Direction’s ‘Drag Me Down’ also equally deserves a gold star). The tension in the squelchy, jazz-backed title track is broken spectacularly by a James Brown scream. And the glorious ‘My Baby Wants A Baby’, with the most relatable of couplets “I wanna play guitar all day / Make all my meals in microwaves,” is based on the chorus of Sheena Easton’s 1980 hit ‘9 To 5 (Morning Train)’. Crate digging? St Vincent has you.
And if glistening choruses, sleazy funk breakdowns and hazy euphoria wasn’t enough, the inclusion of a trio of interludes, fading in and out as if walking past an open window, or dozing, only cement the cinematic nature of the record.
“Wurlitzers and wit, glistening guitars and grit, with sleaze and style for days,” went the pseudo advertising slogan on the poster teasing the record’s announcement. On all fronts, with ‘Daddy’s Home’, St Vincent has delivered spectacularly.
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