Tuesday, March 18, 2014

St. Vincent- St. Vincent REVIEW

With her eponymous fourth full-length release, singer/songwriter Annie Clarke's St.Vincent has reached an undeniable apex. Arriving amidst a sea of fanfare, St. Vincent is the closest Clarke has come to indulging in full-on pop without sacrificing her signature razor-sharp, baroque-inspired approach. While each release was astounding in their own right, St. Vincent’s previous offerings (Marry Me, Actor, Strange Mercy) seemed to find an inward delight in playing coy with the listener, usurping expectation at every turn with a Hall of Mirrors approach to songwriting- nothing was as it seemed until it became something else entirely. With St. Vincent, Clarke has managed to consolidate her predecessor’s remarkable attributes into a ferociously demure and definitive eleven tracks.  The only mirror featured on St. Vincent reflects Clarke herself- and somehow that makes the ride even more unpredictable.

Dubbing St. Vincent as “full-on pop” may be stretching it a bit. There are moments though that feel alarmingly accessible for a St. Vincent album, notably the propulsive “Birth in Reverse” as well as the wonderful ballads “Prince Johnny” and “I Prefer Your Love” (the latter two feature mutaded shades of Sinead O’Connor, George Michael, and Boy George). However, songs like the unnerving album opener “Rattlesnake” and the “Digital Witness” (which could play as the theme song to a 21st century reboot of The Prisoner if Hollywood hadn’t already rebooted it) double-down on Clarke’s frantic, laconic guitar lines and- in the case of “Digital Witness”- trumpets. “Rattlesnake”, in particular, ushers in a contagiously addictive anxiety that acts as precursor for the album’s recurring themes of confessional intimacy; themes that reach full-circle magnificence with album closer, “Severed Cross Fingers”, a funeral sing-along if there ever was one. For the first time, St. Vincent appears willing to go down the rabbit hole with us, panic attack at all- instead of merely pushing us over the edge and calling out to us on our way down. Never before has Clarke's graphic, macabre imagery sounded so directly therapeutic to the artist herself- and we, as the listeners, can find catharsis here as well.

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