We open with an incredibly cinematic chase scene, a naked St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) sprinting through the forest away from a deadly rattlesnake. ‘Sweating, sweating, sweating, rattle behind me/Running, running, running, no one will ever find me’ she sings on the aptly titled ‘Rattlesnake’. Whilst Clark paints this primordial picture of fear through lyrics, her signature guitar style jars with this image, seeming incredibly methodical and controlled within its madness.
There are two equally important and distinct side to St. Vincent’s music that will hit listeners, her wondrous lyrical talents and her dominating guitar sounds. Clark’s lyrics are often underappreciated in favour of her guitar abilities, but St. Vincent may be her greatest achievement lyrically. Even when examining the very in vogue theme of the modern technological world we live in, her lyrics are vastly superior to many of her competitors. ‘Entombed in a shrine of zeroes and ones’ as she yelps on ‘Huey Newton’ is an incredibly clever thought-provoking statement that is also very visual, and it is this duality of her lyrics that makes them so special. Even when her lyrics are retreading familiar themes from past albums for Clark she always manages to do this in an eye-catching manner, for example stand out song ‘Birth in Reverse’ examining the mundanity of everyday life. ‘Oh, what an ordinary day/Take out the garbage, masturbate’ will grab the attention of any listener.
St Vincent sees Clark exploring new musical territory, even if it isn’t the direction many were hoping to see her follow. An interesting example of this is the heavily Beach House sounding ‘I Prefer Your Love’ which follows that band’s dream pop aesthetic almost to a tee. The direction many fans were hoping to hear more of however, comes from what was laid out on 2012 Record Store Day Release Krokodil/Grot. These borderline metal songs would have been a bigger risk for Clark to take and whilst the record we get is still a good one, I cannot help but imagine how amazing the record could have been.
One of the things that made Krokodil/Grot so special and new for Clark seemed to be an element of freedom. It is frequently commented on, how her guitar style is ‘contained insanity’ whilst those songs were purely insane. With the chaos of the guitars on those songs came freedom for other instruments such as the drums which often seem to fall a little by the wayside on Clark’s albums and St Vincent is no different. Whilst this is by no means anything that ruins my enjoyment of the album, liberation could have taken this album to the next level.
My problem with St Vincent is one of disappointment, whilst definitely still a good record, it doesn’t quite hit the highs of Strange Mercy and it isn’t as seemingly out of nowhere as that record was (at least for me). Listen to this album and you’ll enjoy it, you just might not be amazed.By Harry Rosehill