Album Review: St. Vincent—”St. Vincent”

By Ayla Shiblaq

Annie Clark, under the stage name St. Vincent, has wowed listeners with her haunting contrasts. She continues to build on this craft on her appropriately self-titled fourth album, St. Vincent.

“This album sounds like a break-up” was my very first impression when I listened to her latest effort. The intensity felt from the opening riff of “Rattlesnake” was one that begged for attention, especially in the first lines, “Follow the power lines back from the road. No one around so I take off my clothes.” From this powerful beginning, the song tapers into an unexpectedly joyous riff. It’s entertaining, it’s clever, and most of all, it’s a different take on a side of St. Vincent that was always there, just now more apparent.

What makes this album so spectacular is not only its simplistic yet incredibly catchy riffs or the obvious David Byrne and David Bowie inspiration, but the making of the album. For each album St. Vincent has released, she looks for inspiration outside of herself. Marry Me, her first full-length album, was inspired by love. For Actor, it was the humanization of Disney movies and the like, while Strange Mercy used isolation as its muse. Different from the rest, St. Vincent is the result of Clark’s deep introspection.

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Album art of St. Vincent

The album, though not painfully obvious, is extremely personal, with each song including a story or reflection about Clark. “Rattlesnake” is a story of when she ventured from a friend’s ranch for a walk, took off her clothes alone in the desert and continued walking only to realize there was a snake. “Huey Newton” is about an ambien trip involving a conversation with Black Panther member Huey Newton. She rejects the typical “sad song, slow tempo, acoustic guitar” formula and resorts to an 80s ballad with synth flare on “I Prefer Your Love” and a bittersweet curtain call with “Severed Crossed Fingers.”

Though personal, the classic St. Vincent wit is not lost. Listeners will see a critique of our increasingly digitalized society in “Digital Witness,” which she points to in an interview with Pitchfork’s Ryan Dombal: “We have this feeling that we’re being watched, and our psychic response is to make ourselves transparent. The real currency in the future will be privacy.” ”Digital Witness” stands as a song ahead of our time that best highlights Clark’s niche in the market of dark thoughts paired with well-crafted riffs and her new accessory, funky brass tunes with some smooth synth.

Further highlights of the album include her first single, “Birth in Reverse,” “Prince Johnny,” “Regret,” and “Bring Me Your Loves,” all making it more apparent Clark is the queen of her craft.

It became clear the more I listened to the album why I thought this sounded like a break-up: on St. Vincent, Clark becomes more defined as an artist further balancing her talents of contrast, emphasizing her pop sound with rock aesthetic, and embracing the darkness that her music casts a shadow for. She leaves behind her former personas to embrace her newly forged “cult leader status” – a cult I would join in a heartbeat. (Loma Vista)

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