St. Vincent might not be a name immediately associated with rock ’n’ roll, but her latest, self-titled album makes a compelling argument that she might be one of the last true rock stars we have.
Annie Clark (who performs under the name St. Vincent) is a musician of multiple talents, and St. Vincent is a testament to her versatility. It’s a constantly surprisingly album that finds Clark frequently transitioning between a girlish whisper and a sardonic yowl and because of this variety, the album flies through its 11 dynamic tracks. I could have easily listened to another four songs without getting bored.
The highlights come frequently and in all different forms on St. Vincent. The shimmering “I Prefer Your Love” is a tender tribute to Clark’s mother, and its subtle groove and simple lyrics give the track an elegantly bare feel.
Meanwhile, Clark shows off her more abrasive side on tracks such as “Regret” and the infectious “Birth in Reverse”. Her guitar has a distinctive crunch, and whether she’s peppering in horns or synthesizers on top, the primal feel of her musicianship is always present. Even the album’s more dance-influenced tracks (such as “Digital Witness”) or experimental offerings (such as the dizzying “Bring Me Your Loves”) offer a strong dose of Clark’s artistic voice.
This is one of the things that prevent the album from feeling fractured. There are so many different styles present here that it sometimes feels like Clark is eager to try out a few too many things at once. But despite the fact that there’s so much going on, the album never feels bogged down in its own experimentation.
It’s also a remarkably well-balanced album. For example, after two heavy and loud tracks (“Bring Me Your Loves” and “Psychopath”), Clark takes a step back and allows the listener to breathe. The buoyant “Every Tear Disappears” then offers a moment of exuberance, feeling all the more lovely in light of what came before.
St. Vincent is such a concise and well-thought-out album that it comes across a touch clinical. There is a genuine energy in Clark’s music, but there’s also a sense that she’s hyper-aware of every detail at play. This lends the album a slightly calculated effect that, while not exactly a hindrance, does occasionally prevent St. Vincent from achieving the emotional impact it could have had.
While it feels like Clark is still figuring out exactly what kind of music she prefers to make, St. Vincent shows that an artist doesn’t always need to settle on a definitive identity. The experimentation and growth here is fascinating to watch as it unfolds. Let’s hope Clark never pins herself down to just one style. MMMM