Friday, 30 September 2011

St Vincent - I'm flicking through a thesaurus for superlatives as I type

I'm trying to find a prosy way to start talking about St Vincent. Maybe a comparison with other bands that use St as a honorific, maybe some sort of poor ramble about the singer-songwriter's beatification after leaving the smiley happy, cult-like Polyphonic Spree...
No. Sod it.
St Vincent, aka Ann Erin Clark is bloody good. Her first album 'Marry Me' was bloody good, 'Actor' more of the same, and not only does 'Strange Mercy' fail disappoint in any way whatsoever, it keeps on improving with every listen. 'Cheerleader', taken from the newly released third album proved to be my personal highlight of last night's Music Geek Monthly meeting; even though I completely misheard the chorus and thought she was singing about not wanting to be a "chimney". Totally understandable; chimney isn't exactly the sort of career for a young, talented woman.
Generally Miss Clark gadds about as an alternative darling; popping up here and there in elite touring bands, or as an opening act to indie groups with serious chops - Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear etc, etc. Usually garnering plenty of critical acclaim and Kate Bush comparisons. Did I mention she's bloody good? She plays a dirty bass, she sings - she probably doesn't want to be a chimney (her lyrics tend to be a bit cleverer than that) and if that's not enough she plays a slew of other instruments too. Flute, organ and piano aren't enough for her or her heavily layered arrangements.
Strange Mercy is a curious beast. The album sounds raddled; a travel-soiled girl weary under florescent bus station lights, hands clenched into fists, palms marked by half moons. It spins from from fragility to aggression; catchy riffs subvert the dark, challenging and frank tone as the music ripples with raw emotion, painful stories and originality.
Second track 'Cruel'is a perfect example of the music's schizophrenic nature; bright, breezy start with a luscious stroke of 'Spanish Eyes'-like balladry, counterpointed by a chirpy electro beat that bob-bob-bobs along until... until... Until there's a crescendo and you're not quite in Kansas anymore. Yet as suddenly as it changes it reverts to being a blowsy singalong once more, albeit about someone "someone waving flares in the air so they could see you".

There's not a hint of pretension, not even in tracks with titles like 'Neutered Fruit' (which include a Disney choir like warble). It's the music of someone who is clearly in love with what she does; complex, creative, crafted.... And it's bloody good.

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