St. Vincent

Band: St. Vincent
Album: St. Vincent
Best song: “Digital Witness” is certainly the smartest of the songs on the record.
Worst song: “I Prefer Your Love” is good, but nothing special.

It’s that time of the year: Everyone with a voice is talking about their favorite things of 2014. I don’t make “Albums of the Year” a thing, largely because what do I know? But it’s also because my tastes are pretty specific, however vast and omnivorous they tend to be (For example: The Pusha T record is great, but I feel less-than-qualified to write about it). I’ve already written about two of my favorite albums of the year so far: Banks’ debut record Goddess and Emma Ruth Rundle’s Some Heavy Ocean. The third is St. Vincent’s self-titled record

As an artist, St. Vincent is musically multilingual; she bounces around electronic, pop, rock, punk and other styles to make a decidedly postmodern sound. It was evident on Marry Me and came to full fruition on her collaboration with the Talking Heads’ David Byrne. St. Vincent itself is the stellar continuation of that maturation of multilingualism.

The torch-y sounding “Severed Crossed Fingers” is, well, torch-y, were it not for the morbid lyricism. It’s the kind of softness that Adele could pull off, but brings to mind The Boy With the Arab Strap in its cheap juxtaposition of music and lyrics. Yet somehow, it doesn’t sound cheap on St. Vincent, but rather the final song on an album full of a wide range of, well, everything.

The record starts out in the bouncy electronics of “Rattlesnake,” transitions to the post-new wave of album single “Birth in Reverse.” The song’s angular guitar breakdown and the disjointed rhythms recall the best of Bloc Party and its antecedents and the lyrics reflect the Malkmus/Dylan-y non-sequiturs that mean something (“Oh, what an ordinary day/Take out the garbage, masturbate”).

Annie Clark — the artist known as St. Vincent — and her comfort with her stage presence made for her Saturday Night Live appearance playing the song something to behold.

St. Vincent – Birth In Reverse – SNL by nicsleone

The other huge single, “Digital Witness,” has more of a pop sound, with harmonies dotting the chorus. A staccato main line and keyboards inhabit the song’s spaces, with Clark’s voice in its more striking. The song is, like so much great art, is a conversation around the intersection of the modern idea of technology colliding with humanity. In sounding like she’s describing social media or the advent of the camera phone or the Barthes-meets-Baudrillard idea of symbols and hyperreality, Clark’s lyrics speak to a blurring of the lines of virtual and real.

And those themes surround the entire album. By fusing all these styles and filtering them through her incredibly sardonic lyricism, Clark creates one of the best albums of the year.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

    You can contact me at rjgianfortune at gmail dot com.

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