Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, is a musical mad scientist. And her new self-titled album is her most advanced experiment to date. With a dash of the dreamy beauty of 2007’s Marry Me, a pinch of the control and jazzy influences of Actor and the David Byrne collab, Love This Giant, as well as a heaping spoonful of the unadulterated power of Strange Mercy, St. Vincent is nothing short of a masterful concoction of Clark’s previous talent smelted together to create something entirely new. The mad scientist imagery also stems from her gravity-defying locks. Can’t forget about the hair.
The album kicks off with Rattlesnake, a song that chronicles Clark’s true story of walking naked in the deserts of Texas and seeing a rattlesnake a few feet away. The track is skittish, funky and has this 8-bit underlay that sounds like it came straight from the start menu of an old Mario video game. It’s nearly 4 minutes of Clark kookiness that lets the listener know that she is out to slay the ordinary, and that this latest long player will not sound like what we’ve heard before. St. Vincent is essentially a kind of ode to that ideology.
Rattlesnake, as well as the first two singles—Birth In Reverse and Digital Witness—work to critique living life too safely. She also highlights the idea that people in the Digital Age feel like they need things like Instagram hearts or Facebook likes to know that they are doing something worthwhile: “Digital witnesses/What’s the point of even sleeping/If I can’t show it/If you can’t see me/What’s the point of doing anything?” The fact that St. Vincent is experimenting with new lyrical and musical ideas, sometimes within the same song, is what makes St. Vincent great. Everything feels fresh, even after a few replays.
Huey Neuton begins poppy and subtle, but when you least expect it, she comes in with a guitar riff that changes the course of the track into this dynamic, White Stripes-esque alternative rock power jam. In songs like Bring Me Your Loves, her ability to create a totally batshit crazy sound with a frenzy of multilayered synth, guitar and haunting vocals, while maintaining complete control over it demostrates her talent and instrumental prowess, not to mention her meticulous attention to sonic detail. Alongside such powerful, multi-layered tracks, she can pull off more minimal slow jams with soft synth sounds, such as Prince Johnny and I Prefer Your Love. Their captivating coos remind the listener that aside from everything else, the fact remains that Clark has amazing pipes.
Mad scientist or not, St. Vincent’s talent, control of her craft and artistic focus set her up to be a consistently intriguing performer. With her experiences and experimentation, she has combined and refined her sound to make it something that is similar and yet totally separate from anything she’s done before. St. Vincent isn’t afraid of being different or taking risks, and thinks we shouldn’t be either.