What this all about?
The new Annie “Saint Vincent” Clark album will be released tomorrow. It’s her fourth album. Full press push crescendoing today, subsiding throughout the week until the summer tour machine / festy bus gears up.
St Vincent is an American musician. She is 31 and from Oklahoma if Wikipedia is to believed. She got her start as a side player in that band that was on Scrubs once and also worked as a counselor at Sufjan Stevens Christian Summer Camp. She went on to write a handful of amazing songs, getting into lots of magazines, being on Portlandia, appearing on a pretty funny episode of Comedy Bang Bang, and collaborating with a fossil because kissing the ring is and always will be a gross but necessary ritual.
What’s the album sound like
Prog. Some horns. Weird buzzsaw snyths and atmospheric stuff. Sounds like a dialectic between her last release, a collabo with Talking “David Byrne” Heads, and her last solo album, which is everyone’s favorite still. That all makes sense if you think about it.
Anyway, this new album is pretty awesome. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s catchy, has a lot of verve and swing. It sounds beautiful. Like, audophilac and detailed with lots of interesting little bits and bobs floating through the mix. But it’s far from unfocused.
Like most albums that aren’t social-political or embarrassingly autobiographical, it’s something of a lyrical mishmash. She leads off by talking about being naked. Then there’s a line about masturbating in the next song. Stuff about Jesus. A song about a founder of the Black Panthers. Mostly, St Vincent sounds pretty happy if in an out-there place. Probably because she is out there, as in the 99th percentile, having won the genetic, work ethic, and right place right time lotteries. That’s a trifecta that usually leads to something good. (BNM, baby!)
File under: “maximalist art pop”, if that’s a phrase you don’t mind. But let’s keep things vague - why put labels on our love.
Isn’t she supposed to be some sort of guitar prodigy?
Yeah, she’s really good at playing guitar like a lot of people. This album’s a little less about guitar only because there’s so much more going on. Hard to believe, but the compositions on her first albums are pretty tame and watered down compared to these. Like the difference between Dippin’ Dots at the mall and battered and deep fried Dippin’ Dots at the state fair.
Aren’t I tired of this St Vincent?
I don’t know - are you? Just like wait. It’s only February so virtually no one will care or remember about this album by the time the snow melts.
No wait, I love this album!
Yeah, it’s really good. In the round of interviews she gave, St Vincent mentioned Lorrie Moore a few times (get ready to read some pieces…), David Carr, Miles Davis, Cormac McCarthy, and probably didn’t get around to mentioning scientology, flying first class, True Detective, and taking DMT with Bob Dylan during the Super Bowl. There will be tons of coverage, and many people will be talking about it. Because, again, there’s not a lot going on right now. (Music-speaking… there’s always global climate change, Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, Uganda, trans*phobia, global capitalism, Amazon, etc., etc.)
St Vincent is the sort of artist, like Kanye West, where the spectacle around-and-of her overshadows the music. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that. These people are performers, after all. That just makes it easy to either dismiss or love them based on a lot of surface signifiers. The contradiction is that these surface signifiers are very much a part of their art, as well. (Wear the chain that always give me back pain / fucking up my money so yeah I had to act sane.)
How St Vincent looks has always been a big part of her public image. Her first two albums have striking portraits of her on the cover. They’re very personal. Strange Mercy, the one I said was everyone’s favorite, has a picture of a mouth (probably hers? metaphorically hers for sure) being strangled by white plastic or drowned in a milky substance - struggling to be heard. This album has her sitting on a throne with unreal-looking strawberry blonde hair. She’s said it’s self-titled because she’s like a whole new person. And she is.
It’s pretty clear that St Vincent right now is like an Esper form Terra from Final Fantasy VI. Overwhelming and destroying everything in front of her. Her new form is just an outward manifestation of her unbridled artistic power.