St. Vincent - St. Vincent | Album Review | By Volume

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St. Vincent

St. Vincent

Check the throne: The Queen has returned. St. Vincent brilliantly encompasses all of Clark’s career so far.

Comments (2)
Author: on February 27, 2014
8.5
Loma Vista/Republic Records

Listening to St. Vincent’s self-titled record had me Googling chaos theory. In the shortest, least mathy terms, chaos theory describes mathematical and physical phenomena that seem random but are in fact carefully ordered and predictable, interlocking with all preceding and subsequent events.

At some moments, St. Vincent feels overwhelming, as though with one more note the whole thing could collapse in on itself. At others, sparseness cuts through space and time to destroy everything in its path. But it never becomes random. Every choice deliberately moves the record along, and even at its most fanciful it remains orderly. Each sound, every lyric and Annie Clark’s gorgeous vocal performance merge to create an exquisitely chaotic collection of sounds.

Am I the only one in the only world?”, she wails on album opener “Rattlesnake”, and I nod in agreement. Clark exists in a reality of her own creation, and with this record she takes our hands and invites us to venture into it for a while. She seems thrilled to show us what she’s made — there is a frenzy to the presentation of the record, from the startling white curls to the slew of singles, that reminds me of a kid certain she has bought her best friend the perfect birthday gift.

She began building this reality with 2007’s Marry Me. Although simple and beautiful songs like “We Put A Pearl In The Ground” could sound unrelated to this new record, they have their necessary place in the same universe. In the context of Annie Clark’s career, St. Vincent sounds both shocking and inevitable. It is everything a self-titled record should be, the culmination of over a decade as a professional musician who has never stopped seeking ways to stretch, push and charge into a better version of her craft.

It’s seven kinds of bizarre, but its weirdness promotes rather than hinders a relatability not often found in the flavors of indie rock Clark creates. It’s not weird in a Kate Bush way that begs you to admire from a distance. St. Vincent is a space traveling mortal human, not an extraterrestrial visitor. It’s the erratic check-out clerk with mismatched socks who makes you want to mismatch your own pair. It’s the quiet secretary who types 120 words a minute and really ought to be the CEO (and hell, maybe she is — it’s that kind of world).

The music pushes and pulls and remains perfectly balanced; it is the sun, its listeners the planets. Clark is one of the best active guitarists in the world. She constantly does things with six strings that the rest of us never consider, making noises with her instrument many artists would turn to a computer for, and yet she remains entirely unassuming. The gripping guitar licks on “Bring Me Your Loves” seem to shrug their shoulders and say, “but of course, this is simply our place in the chaos”.

Single “Birth in Reverse” is ravenous with ideas and revelations. The wretched, lovely closer “Severed Crossed Fingers”, oozes longing. All the tracks balance, each providing the antidote to the pain the rest inflict, to leave you whole at the end. The best of the album comes right in the middle with the back-to-back pairing of “I Prefer Your Love” and “Regret”. The former is a slowly dripping tap of affection, an ode to the kinds of friendships that mold our guts into better shapes. It boasts the album’s loveliest melody and the roomy arrangement lets the story bloom.

“Regret” feels like an answer to the Fiona Apple song of the same name; where Apple sings “leave me alone” in earnest, Clark confesses: “I’m afraid of Heaven because I can’t stand the height / I’m afraid of you because I can’t be left behind”. It’s a contrast fitting to the myriad ways in which the best two female vocalists in indie rock contrast and complement each other. In a neat forty-minutes, Clark weaves together eleven stories and a few thousand sounds – an infinite sliver of the chaotic universe she created, or that created her. Or both.

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  • s

    Robin Smith wrote the same article on ‘The Quietus”

  • http://www.by-volume.com Dylan Siniscalchi

    Certain Robin shares the love, but he didn’t write about this album for The Quietus…

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