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Music Review: St. Vincent – ‘St. Vincent’

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St. Vincent is, admittedly, not for everyone.

I started playing her new self-titled album this morning, the groovy 8-bit beats of “Rattlesnake” pulsing from my laptop speakers, and my roommate immediately asked, “What are you listening to?”

“A song about St. Vincent running, naked, from a rattlesnake,” I answered, completely serious. My roommate laughed and headed out, but I continued to listen to the music, utterly enthralled.

St. Vincent is actually 31-year-old Annie Clark, singer-songwriter and talented guitarist, who was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and later grew up in Dallas, Texas. She got her start in the indie music scene, collaborating with the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens early on. I’ve been a fan of her work since I stumbled across her first album, Marry Me, in 2007. She’s always been a little bit weird, her music beautiful but coming from a very dark place, so you feel like you’re listening to someone’s nightmares – and enjoying it.

Take the fourth song from her new album, “Huey Newton.” Clark’s voice floats above driving percussion, synth chords drifting in and out. And then about halfway through, she comes in with a guitar riff so grungy, so dirty, it’s like you can feel the rough texture of the song in your ears.

st. vincentThen there’s “Digital Witness,” which Clark has openly discussed is a skewering of the Facebook generation’s obsession with over-sharing. “I want all of your mind,” she croons. An arrangement of horns trumpets behind her, a repetitive fanfare that announces nothing. The music video for this track places a zombie-like Clark in a dystopian landscape populated with robotic workers going through the same motions over and over. Her view of this generation is dark, indeed.

“I Prefer Your Love” might be the most accessible track on the album. It’s a stripped-down love ballad that could have come out of the early ’90s. Even Clark’s voice might remind you of Madonna or Sinead O’Connor here.

“Prince Johnny” is surreal and gorgeous, while “Bring Me Your Loves” is frantic. The album finishes on a bittersweet note, with a hazy song that sounds like it comes through a fog of inebriation (“Severed Crossed Fingers”).

Again, yes, St. Vincent is a little off-kilter, but in that strangeness is beautiful and exciting new art. It might take some easing in for new listeners, but if you give her a chance, you’ll be hypnotized. St. Vincent is her tightest, smartest work yet, and will not disappoint her fans.

St. Vincent will be released on February 25.

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About Jo Light

Jo is a writer living in LA. When she's not trying to break into the entertainment business, she's watching movies, taking long walks, and playing video games.