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Anticipation has been building for St Vincent aka Annie Clark’s self-titled album and rightly so. The lead-up has been paved by the release of Birth in Reverse, Digital Witness, and finally, Prince Johnny, which have served as whetting appetisers for the final work.
On her fourth LP, it is clear that Annie Clark is not afraid to experiment. Her latest release is bizarre, surreal and intriguing, confirming that her creative energy has only been growing since her well-received 2011 release, Strange Mercy.
Arranged in Austin before hitting the studio in Dallas, St Vincent is a collection of musically diverse songs created with the aid of Dap-Kings drummer Homer Steinweiss, Midlake drummer McKenzie Smith, and producer John Congleton. They are a combination of aggressive guitar, synthesiser, and vocals, above a rhythm that doesn’t quite seem to match.
The ethereal lyrics and clanky sound seem at odds with each other, but somehow create a structured disorder. The beauty of the chaos works to better portray the mood of what Clark’s words express, offering an insight into the 31-year-old as St Vincent. It becomes apparent that Clark chose to make album number four self-titled as it is the most faithful reflection of herself yet.
Clark sings of the human experience and the themes are thought-provoking and dark. Album opener Rattlesnake begins with the lines, “Follow the power lines back from the road / No one is around so I take off my clothes”, based on her own experience of wandering naked in a Texas field. This sets the tone for the remaining 10 tracks, which cover the hypocrisy of human condition and the digital age, most explicitly in Digital Witness.
We are then taken from the energetic Birth in Reverse to the slower and more calculated Prince Johnny and Huey Newton. If you close your eyes you can easily imagine them as the score to a Quentin Tarantino or Pedro Almodóvar film.
From there we discover that Clark still has more to show us, with Regret a standout track and Bring Me Your Loves serving as an enjoyable listen. Winding down, we are given Psychopath and Severed Crossed Fingers, which are less frantic and a strange kind of beautiful, a stimulating juxtaposition to the titles themselves.
Clark has taken an imaginative yet whacked approach on what she’s described as “a party record that could be played at a funeral.” It’s likely you’ll need some patience to get through it first go as your ears may need time to adjust. St Vincent isn’t just music, it is a genuine work of art that requires digestion time. However, once you get used to the taste of it, it actually goes down quite well.
St Vincent’s self-titled fourth album is available from Friday, 21st February.