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Album Review: St. Vincent

Album Review: St. Vincent
February 17, 2014 ERIC RICKERT

The Billfold recently shared the thought process behind building a resume, now outfitted for a recession: start with everything you can offer, all your savviness, all your creativity, every computer program you’ve mastered, every blog where you’ve published. Start with monster.com, apply to a couple jobs, interview a few times, realize what the world wants from you, strip everything from your resume, use aggregating job-listing sites like glassdoor.com, work with your peers to network, write a cover letter that concisely and simply introduces yourself. Wash. Rinse. Repeat repeat repeat.

St. Vincent

The same could be said of Annie Clark, the indie-music nymph with an angelic voice and a mastery of thirteen different instruments who is professionally known as (#PKA) St. Vincent.

Her first album, Marry Me, was titled after an extended gag on “Arrested Development.” She was dark and funny and slightly perverted and apocalyptic (#touchme). She released two more albums and worked with David Byrne on an album of duets. Word got out that she could seriously shred a guitar a la the Youtube video where she slays / destroys / rips into Big Black’s “Kerosene.”

She was supremely talented. She knew a lot of other musicians, and they all adored her. She had a lot to offer the world.

Cut to now: Annie Clark has a new label and a new album. This iteration of St. Vincent led with “Birth In Reverse” and the lyrics “Another average day / take out the garbage, masturbate.” There aren’t any cute album titles this time; the album is named, simply, St. Vincent (pre-order on iTunes). She used to have brown hair cut in a style that a Brooklyn hipster would describe as mousey. Now it’s gray, or white, or tinged with lavender, and erupting from her head as if she’s constantly being electrocuted.

She’s still funny, she’s still ridiculously talented, she’s still that Texas girl named Annie Clark at heart, but this St. Vincent is the most focused, concentrated, and fun one yet. St. Vincent is St. Vincent in her purest, most distilled state. Look at that album cover! The queen is waiting to be entertained!

I don’t need to compare everything in the world to Beyoncé (#beyoncetakethewheel), but this album shares certain feelings with Beyoncé’s game-changing, eponymous, December-via-Instagram release: St. Vincent is sure-footed, flexed, literal, funny, obscured, loose, and honest. Like Beyoncé, St. Vincent skitters and burps and hums more than her other albums, but it’s decidedly notelectronic. Like any decent self-portrait, it’s a study in contrast. Aside from sharing a certain kind of frank lyrical tone (“Let me sit this ass on you” – Beyoncé Gisele Knowles-Carter), Beyoncé andSt. Vincent both exhibit a self-assured comfort that has never been so permeating on any previous release.

The cultural references are still there (“Huey Newton”), and there are a lot more of the gigantic, rhapsodic songs that sound like Annie Lennox B-Sides (“I Prefer Your Love,” “Severed Cross Fingers”). The album begins with “Rattlesnake”–a jerky, chirping song that is, literally, about seeing a rattlesnake while playing Garden of Eden–and ends with the lilting but haunted “Severed Cross Fingers.” It’s that awesome road trip you’ve always wanted to take with no particular destination in mind.

The journey between the two doesn’t make a lot of sense on paper, but listening to St. Vincent as an album–with all its layers and all the snark, all the light, all the dark, all the abrasiveness and all the quirkiness–sounds so, so good, and so totally natural for Annie Clark.

A writer / artist / playlist-maker living in Brooklyn, by way of Kentucky. This short history pretty much sums him up: on the night he was born, his mother waited to go to the hospital until the latest episode of Dallas was finished, and his dad had over 15,000 records in the basement and would quiz him weekly on Fleetwood Mac, Prince and the Rolling Stones, usually when the family was watching Silk Stalkings. Now he lives to quote Ashley Judd in casual conversation. He doesn't reference Ashley too often on Twitter (@errickert) though. You can check more about him at ericrickert.com.