When asked about the reasoning behind the decision for her record to be self titled, St. Vincent referred to a comment by the late, great Miles Davis. “The hardest thing for a musician to do is sound like yourself”, but for St. Vincent this is easily achievable. On her first album ‘Marry Me’ in 2007 Annie Clarke hinted at her prowess on the guitar, her floating vocal atmosphere and all-round darkness and over the years she has progressed and refined these elements. The eeriness hid away underneath a cutesy persona on her debut, but this time round she looks out from her throne with an unapologetic hidden smirk in her eyes reflective her jarring, angular guitar work and creepy vibe.
This is St. Vincent’s record through and through. Songs reflect her personal experiences and views. The opener ‘Rattlesnake’ was inspired by the finding of a snake in the grass while out for a naked stroll in Texas, ‘Digital Witness’ satirically mocks the age of social media, a world where there’s “no point sleeping if you can’t see me” and ‘Bring Me Your Loves’ shows a strong sexual, “feral” desire. And it is not just the lyrics that have changed, but the sound too. There is a technological ambience on the record too, the digital and jagged sound evoking the utopian feel suggested on the cover with the drums sounding artificial (almost like the famous Roland 808 machine) and horns being used to create a claustrophobic environment.
It is Clarke’s voice that brings one of the biggest punches however. Her collaboration with David Byrne on Love This Giant in 2012 has noticeably influenced her vocal style, down to in your face “yeah”s of the chorus to ‘Digital Witness’ and the 8-bit sound of the “Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah”s of ‘Rattlesnake’ and Byrne’s influence continues to appear in the funky rhythms and joyfulness exuded throughout the album. The other punch Annie brings once again though is her guitar work. As always she seems confident and tidy in her angular melodies, bringing a lot of surprises including a unexpected solo in the otherwise stripped down ‘Regret’ and a sludgy moment in ‘Huey Newton’.
Whilst this may not be Annie’s best album (a title currently held by 2011’s Strange Mercy) she has successfully achieved her aim of creating a “party record you can play at a funeral” through the contrast between the cold backdrops and her beautiful voice creating a state of both fun and fear. Alas some ideas do fall short – particularly the synthy parts of tracks like ‘Bring Me Your Loves’ – but this record is easily one of the best releases of the year so far.