sat 20/07/2024

CD: St Vincent - St Vincent | reviews, news & interviews

CD: St Vincent - St Vincent

CD: St Vincent - St Vincent

Annie Clark's fourth album is her strongest and strangest work yet

Perhaps the most effective way to sum up St Vincent - the self-titled fourth album from the one-woman avant garde powerhouse known to her friends as Annie Clark - is that it’s the closest she has come on record to the visceral, engrossing experience that is seeing her live. Clark’s albums before 2012’s collaboration with David Byrne were beautifully crafted things, in turns both gorgeous and surreal, but with a certain under-glass quality.

St Vincent, by contrast, is an album that revels in its strangeness, interspersing some of its more curious stories with cobweb-blasting bursts of sheer joy.

In truth the album isn’t all as immediate as its leading singles suggested - “Digital Witness” in particular, incorporating the same ecstatic bursts of horn arrangement that punctuated Byrne collaboration Love This Giant into a song about the virtual lives we construct for ourselves through social media - but that’s what makes it so interesting. Opening track “Rattlesnake” sets the scene with a staccato synth line and distorted vocals that remain curiously charming even as they descend into a discordancy that seems to mimic the serpent of the title - it’s a true story, of course. “Birth in Reverse” might be about routine and agoraphobia, if you can put aside the infectious, chaotic melody for long enough to analyse the lyrics; and “I Prefer Your Love” is a huge, spacious tribute to a mother’s love that feels far lengthier than its three and a half minutes.

Given that she is rightly celebrated as one of the most skilled contemporary guitarists, the only thing more strange than how few opportunities Clark takes to demonstrate her considerably prowess on the album is how long it takes you to notice.“Bring Me Your Loves” and “Every Tear Disappears” are full of big riffs, but the skill is as much in the way they melt into the electronic beats and synthesisers as the wrangling. And then, with the lushness and the sigh that is “Severed Crossed Fingers”, the album ends - with not a minute wasted.

Overleaf: watch the "Digital Witness" video

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