Not only is Annie Clark – aka St. Vincent – undeniably cool, she’s also remarkably talented. Alongside channeling Einstein chic through her kickass new hairstyle, she’s built on a prolific history as a solo artist, coloured by work with the likes of Bon Iver and former Talking Head David Byrne, to produce St. Vincent: a glorious paroxysm of unaffected passion for her art, which sways violently from mania to melancholia, seeking in an effervescent yet perceptive manner to explore the very nature of our being.
What’s noteworthy about St. Vincent is that its content is by no means superficial, as is so often the case when artists opt for such abundant and eclectic instrumentation. Clark herself played a laudable thirteen instruments for her 2007 debut album, and despite having cut back somewhat since then, it’s difficult to think of a sound that she neglects to represent in such tracks as Rattlesnake and Regret. Amidst all this complex layering and backdrops that jerk, oscillate and buzz, Clark provides a social commentary on technology addiction, the durability of the human heart, and everything in between. St. Vincent is at times so wacky lyrically that ‘that time we went and snorted that piece of the Berlin Wall’ (Prince Johnny) seems almost commonplace, yet at others- within Digital Witness, for example, Clark declares ‘people turn the TV on, it looks just like a window’ – so unambiguously satirical about issues that cannot fail to resonate.
Annie Clark herself is pretty otherworldly in her ability as a musician, and it’s therefore appropriate that there’s something of a sci-fi vibe in numerous tracks from this latest record. Huey Newton sees Clark chant over an extraterrestrial sounding riff, before the mood darkens abruptly, owing to some thrashing electric guitar and an attitude-ridden contemplation of ‘perpetual night’. It is this unexpected variation not just within the tracks themselves, but also across St. Vincent as a whole that further contributes to its arresting nature. The robotic electronica of Bring Me Your Loves is incomparable with the mellow, daze inducing nature of Severed Crossed Fingers and I Prefer Your Love, and although perhaps a hint more fluency would be beneficial, this certainly makes for an enthusing listen.
While remaining as unorthodox as ever, St. Vincent manages in her eponymous fifth album to temper enigma with accessibility, a result of the fact that it is, in its entirety, an inherently confident record. The album’s contents are focused and meticulously produced, with both the range and power of Clark’s resonant vocals ensuring that, although enveloped by what is often discordant, melody and lyrics are sustained rather than swallowed.